Chapter One: The Unvanquished Truth
I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for a while, and that’s the truth, the whole truth. The unvanquished truth, is how Freak would say it, and for a long time it was him who did the talking. Except I had a way of saying things with my fists and my feet even before we became Freak the Mighty, slaying dragons and fools and walking high above the world.
Called me Kicker for a time – this was day care, the year Gram and Grim took me over – and I had a thing about booting anyone who dared to touch me. Because they were always trying to throw a hug on me, like it was a medicine I needed.
Gram and Grim, bless their pointed little heads, they’re my mother’s people, her parents, and they figured whoa! better put this little critter with other little critters his own age, maybe it will improve his temper.
Yeah, right! Instead, what happened, I invented games like kick-boxing and kick-knees and kick-faces and kick-teachers, and kick-the-other-little-day-care-critters, because I knew what a rotten lie that hug stuff was. Oh, I knew.
That’s when I got my first look at Freak, that year of the phoney hugs. He didn’t look so different back then, we were all of us pretty small, right? But he wasn’t in the playroom with us every day, just now and then he’d show up. Looking sort of fierce is how I remember him. Except later it was Freak himself who taught me that remembering is a great invention of the mind, and if you try hard enough you can remember anything, whether it really happened or not.
So maybe he wasn’t really all that fierce in day care, except I’m pretty sure he did hit a kid with his crutch once, whacked the little brat pretty good. And for some reason little Kicker never got around to kicking little Freak.
Maybe it was those crutches kept me from lashing out at him, man those crutches were cool. I wanted a pair for myself. And when little Freak showed up one day with these shiny braces strapped to his crooked legs, metal tubes right up to his hips, why those were even more cool than crutches.
“I’m Robot Man,” little Freak would go, making these weird robot noises as he humped himself around the playground. Rrrr. . .rrr. . .rrr. . .like he had robot motors inside his legs, going rrrrr. . .rrrr . . .rrrr, and this look, like don’t mess with me, man, maybe I got a laser cannon hidden inside these leg braces, smoke a hole right through you. No question, Freak was hooked on robots even back then, this little guy two feet tall, and already he knew what he wanted.
Then for a long time I never saw Freak any more, one day he just never came back to day care, and the next thing I remember I’m like in the third grade or something and I catch a glimpse of this yellow-haired kid scowling at me from one of those cripple vans. Man, they were death-ray eyes, and I think, hey, that’s him, the robot boy, and it was like whoa! because I’d forgotten all about him, day care was a blank place in my head, and nobody had called me Kicker for a long time.
Mad Max they were calling me, or Max Factor, or this one butthead in LD class called me Maxi Pad, until I persuaded him otherwise. Gram and Grim always called me Maxwell, though, which is supposed to be my real name, and sometimes I hated that worst of all. Maxwell, ugh.
Grim out in the kitchen one night, after supper whispering to Gram had she noticed how much Maxwell was getting to look like Him? Which is the way he always talked about my father, who has married his dear departed daughter and produced, eek eek, Maxwell. Grim never says my father’s name, just Him, like his name is too scary to say.
It’s more than just the way Maxwell resembles him, Grim says that night in the kitchen, the boy is like him, we’d better watch out, you never know what he might do while we’re sleeping. Like his father did. And Gram right away shushes him and says don’t ever say that, because little pictures have big ears, which makes me run to the mirror to see if it is my ears made me look like Him.
What a butthead, huh?
Well, I was a butthead, because like I said, I never had a brain until Freak moved down the street. The summer before eighth grade, right? That’s the summer I grew so fast that Grim said we’d best let the boy go barefoot, he’s exploding out of his shoes. That barefoot summer when I fell down a lot, and the weirdo robot boy with his white-yellow hair and his weird fierce eyes moved into the duplex down the block with his beautiful brown-haired mum, the Fair Gwen of Air.
Only a falling-down goon would think that was her real name, right?
Like I said.
Are you paying attention here? Because you don’t even know yet how we got to be Freak the Mighty. Which was pretty cool, even if I do say so myself.
Max is used to being called Stupid. And he is used to everyone being scared of him. On account of his size and looking like his dad.
Kevin is used to being called Dwarf. On account of his size and being some cripple kid.
But greatness comes in all sizes, and together Max and Kevin become Freak The Mighty and walk high above the world.
An inspiring, heartbreaking, multi-award winning international bestseller.
“As funny as it is touching and convincing.”
“A small classic.”
The Sunday Times
“This tale of the underdog is a truly moving modern classic – read it NOW.”
“"A brilliant and poignant novel from a very talented writer. This is one of the best children's books of the year."”
Debra Williams, Waterstones
“A small classic, funny-sad, page-turning and memorable... Suspenseful, touching and swiftly persuasive about its most unusual central characters, this remarkable book takes you through dark territory, but it is written with humour and simplicity. It celebrates language, loyalty and imagination, and leaves you smiling.”
The Sunday Times
“"As funny as it is touching and convincing."”
“"Moving and inspirational."”
“A heart-breaking tale. "Freak the Mighty" offers everything you could possibly wish for in a novel ... Get reading now and prepare to sob your heart out.”
“This is an exciting and emotional read. Highly recommended.”
“An incredibly moving, often witty story ... a wonderful book.”
“"A captivating, memorable story."”
Glasgow Sunday Herald
“"This is a gripping, heart-warming story, full of tenderness and laughs, cleverly mixed with some scary and tragic moments. You may want to keep a hankie handy!"”
Debbie Williams, Primary Times
“This book was excellent. What we liked most about it was the fact that Kevin, although he knew he had something seriously wrong with him, kept trying to pretend that he was going to become bionic. This made us both feel really sorry for him and we wanted to help him so much, but of course we couldn't. It's a really adventurous book but it's got a lot more to it ... Read this book!”
Laura Henderson, Paula Wilkie, Teen Titles Book Review Magazine
“Max is big, very big for his age, but a slow learner and in the care of grandparents as his father is serving time for the murder of his mother. Kevin is a bright lad who suffers from a condition leading to stunted growth and he is reliant on crutches. Lightness of touch, sensitivity and immense warmth emanate from the portrayal of the relationship between these two oddball boys living in the middle of an uncaring community of modern despair and neglect. It is humour that leavens things throughout the story as incident after incident reveals dangers and narrow escapes. To say too much here would be unforgivable but towards the end fate seems inevitable and unavoidable. The first reading of this book is a very special experience indeed.”
Boys into Books
“I feel the book gives a sad emotion over to the reader and when you read it you feel for the character. You feel what they’re feeling. The book is really good but makes you quite sad. The kind of people who might like this book are the people who are different themselves and want to change. I have learnt a lot about life from this book. It doesn’t matter how you look, what matters is your personality and the type of person you are.”
Teen Titles - Tyne Davies
“A poignant and moving story that is ultimately uplifting about friendship triumphing over adversity. Funny, touching and inspirational yet cleverly mixed with some scary and tragic moments.”
“With acidic dialogue, classic plot twists and raw emotion, this is a book that packs a mighty punch.”
Children's author Jonny Zucker, writing in Books for Keeps magazine
“I found myself laughing out loud at parts of the story… But there were also some tear-jerking moments which ironically makes this not just a good book, but a great book...I was captivated by it. ”
Mostly Reading YA blog
“A moving, funny and deceptively simple story about two boys who team up to overcome their personal difficulties. Highly recommended for adults and YA readers.”