Maxwell Kane is called Max by his grandparents. Some people called him Kicker because of the way he used to lash out when he was upset. Kids have named him “Maxi Pad,” but Max is happiest when he is being Freak the Mighty, a composite creation made up of himself and Kevin.
When he is alone, as he is when the novel opens, Max is so isolated he barely knows that he is lonely. This is because of the hard life he has led. Before Max was born, his mother got involved with Kenny Kane. This isolated her, because her parents did not approve of Kenny. When Max was four, Kenny killed Max’s mother. Max tried to stop his father, but his dad, who is both massive and cruel, put him in a closet.
Physically, Max looks like his dad. He is so large that people fear him, and sometimes his emotions overwhelm him. Mentally, Max is essentially crippled by the trauma and isolation that have defined his life, so much so that he ends up in learning-disabled classes. Emotionally, Max is pure and sweet, and rather young for his age. While it is Kevin who insists the boys go on adventures, it is Max who is as pure of heart as a knight.
Kevin is the opposite of Max in everything except heart. Whereas Max lost a mother, Kevin lost his father, who abandoned his mother when he learned that Kevin had a birth defect. Physically, Kevin is tiny, almost a dwarf. However, mentally, he is as much a giant as Max is a physical giant. Just as his heart is too big for his body in a literal sense (one element of his medical troubles), so his imagination and intellect are too big for his confining body, situation, and social context. He cannot walk unassisted, so he conjures up a dream of being a robot. His body is vulnerable, so he dreams of being a knight on a quest, complete with armor and physical prowess. His crowning moment is when he blends knightly heroism and mental agility that is pure Freak: when he faces down a murderer with a squirt gun full of pretend acid in...