Living on an island is sort of like living in the Midwest, right? One experiences the same feelings of isolation and note the distinct lack of cosmopolitanism… at least I did, especially in middle school. Though, admittedly, I didn’t quite know what I was missing until I left for boarding school and realized how big the world really was. Might I add: my boarding school was next to The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, Virginia, and I thought THAT was the big, wide world! Had I gone to New York City, I most certainly would have come down with a case of the vapors.
So I commend our little Nate Foster for not fainting as he stepped off that Greyhound bus, having the wherewithal to navigate the city, and the
balls guts to crash an audition. Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is the first (I think) middle-grade book I’ve reviewed for this blog, and if any others are as enjoyable as this (Five, Six, Seven, Nate!) I may find myself branching out to a new audience.
Having met Tim on his Tequila Mockingbird book tour – a book for a very different audience! – middle-grade readers had never crossed my mind, because I’m always overwrought with YA. Maybe it was the boozy (delicious) literary libations that weakened my predisposition, or perhaps Tim’s charm, but I very soon found myself with a copy of his wonderful book. Now… that was over a year ago… but that’s also why I chose it as one of my Must Read books of this year, and devoured it this weekend.
For those seeking an elevator speech for Better Nate Than Ever: it’s about a young boy from a small town in Pennsylvania who is bursting with joie de vivre, and hatches a grand plan with his best friend to somehow make it to New York City and audition for E.T. – The Musical.
For those seeking a bit more: my heart aches with love for this book. Sort of like when your cat does something remarkably sweet like
(not puke on the floor) tilt their head and nuzzle your leg… and your heart grows three-sizes bigger, Grinch-style, and you break the wire-meter-x-ray-screen-thing. Not only does Tim capture the energy and essence of what it’s like to be thirteen, his humor and style capture ,and keep me in, the world of Nate Foster’s NYC, but he also ensnares the heart… An untainted, honest, hope-filled love.
“There is such a rush into Port Authority, exiting the bus and then mazing through a series of escalators, that all I have to do is lean just slightly back and the crowd literally surges me along.” … “Exactly. Good luck kid,” and he leans back and gets swept up in the surge, his head bopping along…”
THAT is New York. I’ve felt the exact same way each time I visit the city, even now in my 20’s. Can’t you just picture it happening? Or what about…
“I’m mumbling through a mouthful of horrible rye toast, toast that tastes like it was baked three years ago and set out in the sun.”
I’m dying. This is why I hate rye bread.
“Sometimes there is no greater act of adulthood than swearing in front of your own mother.”
And how true is that??
Though I’m quite a number of years beyond this book’s intended audience, Tim has so aptly included little nuggets that appeal to older readers. It is so clear to see why Better Nate Than Ever is a book that teachers and librarians are raving about. This is a book that teaches so much. It kills me to hear that some of Tim’s appearances promoting this treasure have been cancelled, especially in his own hometown. (You deserve better!) We need diverse books. It’s 2014, people – time to update your profiles and realize the world is changing, so why don’t you lean back, just slightly, and ride along. Pick up Better Nate Than Ever, you’ll fall in love, and that’s exactly what this world needs.