Freak the Mighty

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Freak The Mighty
AuthorRodman Philbrick
Cover artistDavid Shannon
CountryUnited States
GenreYoung Adult fiction
PublisherBlue Sky/Scholastic
Publication date
Media typePrint
Followed byMax the Mighty 

Freak the Mighty is a young adult fiction novel by Rodman Philbrick. Published in 1993, it was followed by the novel Max the Mighty in 1998. The primary characters are friends Maxwell Kane, a large, very slow, but kind-hearted kid and his friend Kevin Avery, nicknamed “Freak,” who is physically crippled but very intelligent. (In the Book, Kevin's last name is Avery. However, in the movie, his last name was changed to Dillon. Kevin is diagnosed with Morquio syndrome.)[1]

The novel was adapted for the screen by Charles Leavitt; the movie was shot in Toronto, Canada and Cincinnati, Ohio, and directed by Peter Chelsom, and released in 1998.[2]

Summary[change | change source]

In the beginning of the book, Maxwell "Max" Kane is a boy with low self-esteem, like his father; they are both "slow". He lives with his grandparents Grim and Gram. Max thinks of himself as stupid and he is in a disabled class. People are afraid of him because he looks like his father, "Killer Kane," a convicted murderer. Max sets the stage for the story by reminiscing about his time in daycare, when he was known as Kicker and Kevin, the other major character, was known as Freak. Kevin was always different because he was small and needed crutches and then leg braces to walk. But Max respected him even back then for his death glare and thought the crutches and leg braces were cool. Many years later when Max is in middle school, the real story begins.

Max finds out that people are moving into the house next door. The new neighbors turn out to be Freak and his mother Gwen, who Freak calls "The Fair Gwen" after King Arthur's wife. The boys make friends. They go to the Fourth of July fireworks together, and puts Freak on his shoulders so he can see. The local tough guy, Tony D. "Blade", chases the two with his gang because Freak called him a cretin. With Max's size and speed and Freak's directions and master plan of running into the pond, they keep themselves safe until they are rescued by the police. After this incident, Freak starts riding on Max's shoulders. They call their combined form "Freak the Mighty". The friendship is good for them both; they stick up for each other and Kevin even teaches Max to read and learn properly. They go on adventures such as going to the hospital which Freak claims has a secret department called the "Bionics Department" which has had his brain cat scanned to be fitted into an artificial body. On one adventure they find a woman's purse in the sewer. They return it to the woman who is called Loretta Lee. Loretta is the wife of Iggy Lee, boss of the Panheads, a motorcycle gang who "struck fear in everyone, even the cops", as Max puts it. She loved to eat weird things like cowpie and a lot of disgusting things because that's how her gang was. Iggy says that the two of them once knew Max's father. They want to "have some fun" with the boys but change their minds because they are afraid that Max's father will get angry. They are afraid of Max's father even though he's serving a life sentence. They also reveal that Kevin's father left once he heard his son had a birth defect.

At school, Freak nearly dies when he chokes after eating American chop suey. Max alerts the nurse. Freak is taken to the hospital. Later, Grim reveals to Max that his father has been let out on parole. Throughout the story, it has been slowly revealed that Max's father killed his mother by strangling her, and that Grim and Gram hate him and are afraid of Max ending up like him. Max is shocked and scared by the news of his father's parole. Freak returns from the hospital and the two celebrate Christmas Eve together. After Christmas Eve, Max is woken up by his father, Killer Kane, who has come to kidnap him. After Max is kidnapped by his father, the two drive to Iggy Lee's apartment in the "New Testaments" (really tenements). Killer Kane is even bigger than Max and acts in a very threatening, intimidating manner towards everyone, including his son, who he keeps tied up. Killer Kane swears on the Bible that he did not murder Max's mother. He also reveals that he plans to head to "warmer weather" and be a con man. At night he leaves Max alone, tied up in a room in the apartment of an old lady on vacation. Loretta, shocked that Kane would do something like that to his own child, tries to help him escape. Killer Kane catches her and starts to strangle her. Max attempts to stop him and reveals that he witnessed his father kill his mother in the same fashion. Kane gives up on training Max to be his obedient assistant and tries to kill him, but Freak arrives just in time and saves Max by squirting Kane with a squirt gun he claims is filled with sulfuric acid when in fact, it is filled with soap, vinegar, and curry powder. The police are waiting outside, and Killer Kane goes back to prison, this time until he's an old man.

In the spring after the attack, Kevin celebrates his and Freak the Mighty's birthday. Soon after, Freak dies in the hospital after telling Max to record all of their adventures. Max goes crazy when he hears the news and is furious at the doctors for promising Kevin a robotic body to save him. The doctor explains that that was just a story Kevin told himself, and he always knew he was going to die young. He looked up his condition in a medical dictionary (Freak loved words and carried a dictionary around all the time). Max mourns Freak for weeks and won't stop. With Loretta Lee's encouragement, Max eventually starts to heal and writes a book about the adventures of Freak the Mighty, in accordance with Freak's final wishes.

References[change | change source]

  1. Rodman Philbrick, Freak the Mighty, Scholastic Books, 1993.
  2. Peter Chelsom, The Mighty, Chaos Productions, 1998.