Number of Pages: 160
Release Date: June 16, 2005
“Gabriel King was a born chicken. He’s afraid of spiders, corpses, loose cows, and just about everything related to the fifth grade. Gabe’s best friend, Frita Wilson, thinks Gabe needs some liberating from his fears. Frita knows something about being brave— she’s the only black kid in school in a town with an active Ku Klux Klan. Together Gabe and Frita are going to spend the summer of 1976 facing down the fears on Gabe’s list. But it turns out that Frita has her own list, and while she’s helping Gabe confront his fears, she’s avoiding the thing that scares her the most.”
It’s book like this one that remind me why I love middle grade novels so much- they’re easy and quick to read, yet startlingly powerful in the messages they can deliver. They also remind me of my own childhood and the simplicity life held when I was younger.
The voice of the narration of this novel is terrific. It is narrated by Gabriel King, a boy about to enter the fifth grade. It really feels as though you’re reading from the perspective of a child, albeit a very philosophic one. His best friend, the spunky Frita, has a great personality as well. Their friendship feels authentic and has a lot of depth, which is really refreshing to read about. After reading so much romantic YA novels, it’s nice to read a story that focuses on platonic friendship at its core. All of the supporting characters have this same richness to them as well in regard to their personalities. I think it’s the fantastic cast of characters as a whole that really brought this story alive for me.
my favorite thing about this novel is the meaning that it holds. There are numerous valuable lessons that can be gleaned from Gabriel and Frita’s adventures and they span a wide variety of topics. The issue of racial inequality at this time in American history is addressed extremely well, and it really makes the reader understand how socially oppressed African Americans were. The bullying scenes were terribly realistic, and my heart ached for Gabriel when he felt the intense fear that accompanies confronting cruel peers. Finding courage and facing fears are two underlying themes of this novel that drive the central plot, and the message is delivered in a direct and empowering way that I think would be very effective with younger readers. Politics also make an appearance in this story, adding yet another wrinkle that older readers especially will find thought-provoking.
Overall, I really enjoyed The Liberation of Gabriel King. Although I would have liked a bit of a faster paced and action-packed plot, I still found it to be very entertaining and well worth the read.
My Rating: :0) :0) :0) :0) 4 out of 5 smileys.
Would I recommend it to a friend?: Yes! Even though it is technically a middle grade novel, I would recommend it to everyone no matter your age.
Have you ever read this book? What did you think of it? What middle grade novels are your favorites? Let me know in the comments section below!