Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: "The Great American Whatever" by Tim Federle

"When I'm about to do something that makes me nervous, I imagine how the ideal screenplay version of events would play out. As in: I wish my life were a screenplay that I could write. Because if you leave it all up to fate, who knows how your movie's going to turn out? So far mine's a fairly standard coming-of-age LGBT genre film, with a somewhat macabre horror twist."

The last six months have been quite tough for 16-year-old Quinn Roberts. There was a time when all he really cared about was writing screenplays for movies his sister Annabeth would direct, hanging out with his best friend Geoff, and trying to work up the courage to come out of the closet. But that was before the car accident which changed everything, leaving him and his mother to wallow in their grief and basically hibernate in their house. Quinn hasn't been to school, or even in public, in six months, and he certainly hasn't thought about writing any more screenplays.

Geoff has decided six months of grief is enough, and he's determined to get Quinn out of the house and back into life again. And he's pulling Quinn straight into the deep end, taking him to his first college party, where he meets Amir, a guy (a college guy!) who gets his pulse racing. But how do you try to charm someone when your knack for witty dialogue has abandoned you?

Quinn is unprepared for how Amir makes him feel, despite the fact he can never do or say the right thing when he's around him. (And don't even talk about their bowling date.) But what Quinn is even less prepared for is the secrets that everyone has been keeping with him. How was life going on around him and he wasn't even aware of what was happening among those he cared about? Should he feel betrayed, angry, sad, or some combination of all three? And how is he supposed to get on with his life?

The Great American Whatever is a sweet, sappy, quirky book about how you find the strength to pull your life together when it's been ripped apart. It's about friendship, love, infatuation, grief, secrets, and the movies—not in that order. And it's about finding out the things you've always believed in aren't always true. You really feel for Quinn, even if you wish that someone in his life would just shake him from time to time to snap him out of his funk. But that being said, he's definitely a memorable character.

I enjoyed this book, although I felt Quinn's narration a little hard to follow at times, but I guess that was a reflection of his ADD. Tim Federle draws you into the story very quickly, and makes you care about these characters. It's definitely a book that makes you smile, makes you chuckle, and may even make you tear up from time to time. This is another book I'm so glad kids coming to terms with their sexuality will have to rely on.

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