The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle


the-great-american-whateverThe Great American Whatever by Tim Federle
Simon & Schuster, 2016.

6 months ago, 17 year-old Quinn Roberts’ sister was killed in a car accident, and since then 17-year-old Quinn and his mother have withdrawn into their home – no school, no paying bills, eating junk food. Now Quinn’s best friend is determined to get him back out of his shell, and over the course of a few days, Quinn comes to understand both himself and his sister more, as well as try some new experiences, before setting his course for the future.

Quinn narrates with charm and wit, often breaking the fourth wall to address the reader directly. He is gay, but believes, erroneously, that nobody in his life knows this, unjustifiably afraid that it will shock and repulse his friends and family. He is a movie buff and aspiring screenwriter and there is much entertainment from him re-writing scenes in his life as a screenplay so they play out the way they should do, as well as plenty of movie references and recommendations

There are some surprises along the way: Quinn’s first relationship, with college student Amir, turns out to be a short-lived fling, but a great start to his romantic life; and he discovers he didn’t know his sister nearly as well as he thought.

Federle has written a couple of middle grade stories about a theater loving kid, and fans of those novels will have no trouble recognizing his style, albeit raunchier and less sugar-coated in this one. His tone is an easy sweetness that is appealing and comforting, if not boundary challenging (though I’ve just noticed that Kirkus calls Quinn “A Holden Caulfield for a new generation,” so maybe I’m wrong about that).

Apparently this was initially drafted as an adult novel with all the characters ten years older and there is a hangover of this in that a 30-year old character feels a rather more jaundiced 40. It definitely makes sense to young it up for a YA audience, and those who have read and enjoyed his previous middle grade novels, as well of fans of well-written easy reading realistic novels, will find plenty to like here.

Thanks to Simon & Schuster and Edelweiss for the digital ARC.

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