The Freak Observer is rich in family drama, theoretical physics, and an unusual, tough young woman—Loa Lindgren. For eight years, Loa Sollilja's world ran like one of those mechanical models of the solar system, with her baby sister, Asta, as the sun. Asta suffered from a genetic disorder that left her a permanent infant, and caring for her was Loa's life. Everything spun neatly and regularly as the whole family orbited around Asta. But now Asta's dead, and 16-year-old Loa's clockwork galaxy has collapsed. As Loa spins off on her own, her mind ambushes her with vivid nightmares and sadistic flashbacks―a textbook case of PTSD. But there are no textbook fixes for Loa's short-circuiting brain. She must find her own way to pry her world from the clutches of death. The Freak Observer is a startling debut about death, life, astrophysics, and finding beauty in chaos.
Woolston's morbid and layered debut delves into the shattered life of 16-year-old Loa, whose younger sister, Asta, died of a genetic mutation and who, more recently, lost a friend in a tragic accident. Loa suffers the effects of PTSD, including vivid nightmares and flashbacks, which are gracefully written and interspersed throughout. Amid their grief over Asta's death and financial problems, Loa's parents neglect her pain as the family tries to scrape by. "After all those years of fighting hard, we lost. Now we get drunk. We hit each other. When the truck won't start, we punch the windshield so hard the shatterproof glass breaks. Is this depression or anger?" she asks. Loa is strong, but overburdened and isolated; laced with bleak humor, her deadened, searching narration carries this dark and highly promising first novel. The chapters begin with questions or statements, usually drawn from physics, biology, or math, which tie in to Loa's struggles ("What should you do if you are stuck on frictionless ice? Assume you are nude and there is no atmospheric resistance") as she tries to find her way. Ages 12 18.