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Literature / Freak the Mighty

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Max. Freak. Best Friends. Forever.

"I never had a brain until Freak came along and let me borrow his for awhile, 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."
Max Kane

Freak the Mighty is a 1993 young adult novel by Rodman Philbrick. The story is narrated by Maxwell Kane, a large boy who is self-described as stupid. He describes the time when he met and became friends with another boy named Freak. The two first briefly meet in daycare, where Freak is shown having to wear braces on his legs and uses crutches to walk. Skipping ahead a few years, Max is about to enter the eighth grade when Freak moves into a house on the same street. After going to Fourth of July fireworks together, where Max is able to save Freak from getting beaten up by a bully and his gang, the two become best friends. They are both able to help each other, with Max protecting Freak and Freak teaching him how to read, and end up going on several adventures together.

In 1998, a sequel, Max the Mighty, was released. In it, Max meets a girl nicknamed Worm (for her love of reading) and they end up being forced to go on the run together.

The first book was adapted into a 1998 film, The Mighty, starring Elden Henson as Max and Kieran Culkin as Freak, despite having taken a number of creative differences from the book.

For more by Philbrick, see The Last Book in the Universe.

Freak the Mighty provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Freak has blond hair in the book and brown hair in the movie.
  • Appropriated Appellation: Freak's real name is Kevin Avery, but earned that derisive nickname in daycare because of his disability. Given how he and Max call themselves "Freak the Mighty", he clearly wears the name with pride.
  • Badass Boast: "We're Freak the Mighty that's who we are. We're nine feet tall, in case you haven't noticed."
  • Big Damn Heroes: Freak saves Max from his (Max's) father just before the strangling could begin. He pulls on a few awesome boasts and then distracts him so that the police could arrive.
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Max and Freak. Max is known for his large size, while Freak is a scrawny, short kid.
  • Bookworm: Worm in the sequel loves to read, hence the nickname.
  • A Boy and His X: An unusual example in that the "X" is another boy, but regardless it follows all of the details of this trope, including Freak dying and Max improving himself out of the experience.
  • Brains and Brawn: Freak and Max, of course. For crying out loud, Freak has read almost the whole dictionary and was smarter than the teacher in his advanced placement class, but he's crippled and pretty much physically weak. Max is said to be dumb from appearance, couldn't even read that well until Freak taught him how, but is big and has strength on his side. Together, with Freak being the control of Max of course, they make Freak The Mighty.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Max to his father after breaking free and stopping him from killing Loretta.
    Max: You were wearing a black t-shirt with no sleeves. You... you carried me back to my room, you put me to bed and you told to "Shhh!" and that I was dreaming!
    Kenny "Killer" Kane: Is that any way to talk to your daddy?
    Max: But I wasn't dreaming! I remember! I saw you! I saw you kill my mom!
    Kenny: Lord, I wish you hadn't said that boy.
    Max: Well I said it! And you're never gonna stop me from saying it again, because I wanted to say it FOR A LONG TIME!!
    Kenny: Looks like we got a situation here, huh? Huh?
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Freak likes to babble about factoids.
  • Death by Newbery Medal: Freak. Oh, lord.
    • Freak was fully aware, and created a fantasy in his mind that instead of going into the hospital to die he would actually be given biomechanical enhancements. Bless him.
  • Delicate and Sickly: Freak. He has some type of birth defect in which his internal organs grow too large for his body and do not function correctly. He does not survive. The disorder's technical name is Morquio Syndrome.
  • Disappeared Dad: Both the protagonists' fathers. Max's father had been arrested for killing Max’s mother but eventually though, he came back at Christmas and kidnapped him. Freak's father, although he never gets mentioned again, was said from Loretta to disappear right after he heard that his son had a birth defect.
  • Domestic Abuse: Max's dad strangled his wife when Max was very young.
  • Gang of Bullies: The other children, with chants like "'Killer' Kane, 'Killer' Kane, had a son who has no brain!"
  • Gentle Giant: Max. Although he inherited his father's literally big genetics, and is according to Freak's Dictionary, one hundred eighty centimeters tall (six feet tall), he doesn't like fighting when it's completely necessary. Also, it's been told from Gram that he has his mother's heart and emotions. This is especially true in the movie, since as Freak says to him, he'll "pass on the fists" when he describes the definition of pacifist to him. Also, he only fought to defend himself and Freak.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Max and Freak. They have a very touching friendship.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Freak qualifies as a rare male example of the non-romantic variety.
  • Meaningful Name: Max's grandpa, "Grim", rarely smiles. Freak even asks if he calls him Grim because he always looks grim. Freak himself could also qualify, he calls himself Freak because well, he's a freak.
  • Missing Mom: Max's mom, ever since before the beginning of the story. The grandparents were even talking about their "dearly departed" daughter every so often. Turns out that she was strangled by his dad when he was a toddler.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: In the sequel, Max plays up his slowness at one point to avoid arousing suspicion.
  • Odd Friendship: Freak and Max. One's a large and strong ditz and the other is a weak and scrawny smart kid.
  • Older Than They Look: Not exactly as huge as other characters. According to Freak's Dictionary at the end of the book, Freak is exactly seventy centimeters. That's only two feet and four inches. He still wears kid-like clothes. With that blond hair all over him, he looked like a five year old from the back, just like he was in his preschool days. Justified by the fact that he has morquio syndrome.
  • The Pollyanna: Freak. His mother too.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: One of the front covers has a caption underneath their picture saying, "Max. Freak. Best Friends. Forever."
  • Raised by Grandparents: Max after his father killed his mother and was sent to prison.
  • The Sociopath: Max's father. He killed his wife and tries to kill his son. He comes off as more of a psychopath though due to how unhinged he is.
  • Tagline: From the covers:
    • Freak the Mighty: "Max. Freak. Best Friends. Forever."
    • Max the Mighty: "In search of the truth. No matter where it leads."
  • Teen Genius: If Freak knowing more than the teacher isn't one, then what is?
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Freak loves American Chop Suey.
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Max's father is a wife murdering sociopath who notably darkens the tone of the book.
  • Walking Spoiler: Saying anything about Max's father other than the fact the was arrested spoils the climax.