Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Whew, lots going on around here at the moment! In addition to the Multicultural Kid Blogs Pinterest Scavenger Hunt we are participating in (are you pinning along?), I've recently been promoted to a librarian position at the regional library system where I work. That's a dream come true for me, frankly, and though it isn't a children's services position, I'll still be doing acquisitions for our children's department, so no shortage of new books any time soon. But while I've been adjusting to all of this, the blog has taken a back seat of sorts, and I do apologize for the lack of new content. Fear not, more is coming!

Of all the books I've recently read, though, one is so unique that I couldn't take it back to the library unblogged. In his debut novel for middle graders, Better Nate Than Ever, Tim Federle gives us a fast, funny and oh-so-relatable tale of a fish out of water who may just have finally found his true calling. Nate Foster hasn't always known he wanted to be on Broadway, but he has always felt he didn't quite fit in his hometown of Jankburg, Pennsylvania. With the help of best friend Libby, Nate's finally figuring out that he was born for the stage - and he may be getting his big break, when Libby helps him hatch a plot to sneak off to New York for a Broadway audition. It's for the stage version of Nate's favorite film -- E.T.: The Musical -- and Nate just feels in his bones that he's meant to play Elliott. So Nate screws up all his courage and takes the city by storm. But with every twist and turn, it seems it's not going to be an easy road to stardom. Should Nate give up and head for home, or keep on keeping on to make his big dreams a reality?

This one isn't going to strike a chord with every kid, but for those to whom it rings true, this one may just be a lifesaver. Federle's frank about Nate's struggles to figure out his place in the world; this is an especially good choice for young teens who are gay or questioning. There are lots of other weighty issues as well, including religion, happiness at home, sibling rivalry, bullying and the drama of not fitting in. But lest you think this is a heavy book, far from it. Parts of this warm and witty novel had me laughing out loud, and every single page had me rooting for Nate that he'd find his place in the world, now or later.

Federle's mined his own experiences for the story of Nate, and the truth of his writing shines through on every page. You can't help but smile at a kid who uses failed musicals as curse words, and who's almost single-minded about getting to eat at the Times Square Applebee's. There's the perfect pitch here between adulthood and childhood, between a kid who is dazzled by the white lights of Broadway and one who just wants to, once and for all, find the place he's meant to be. For all of us who've ever felt there was a version of life out there with kindred spirits, and who suffered through some years of being odd one out before finding it, Better Nate Than Ever says it all.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle, published by Simon and Schuster
Ages 9-13+
Source: Library
Sample: "And now I'm staring out the window at a familiar world zooming past, colors bleeding from grey (Pittsburgh) to bright red and blue (a car accident) to brown (somewhere thirty minutes out of town). Libby shared a really good technique that is thus far working beautifully: Crumple up a bunch of Kleenex and put them on the seat next to yours, and nobody will sit next to you on long bus trips. Try it sometime, guys."

1 comment:

David said...

Congrats on the new job -- I enjoyed my acquisitions jobs a lot. It was like shopping with someone else's money!