I really enjoyed Tim Federle’s two middle grade novels, Better Nate than Ever and Five Six Seven Nate! and I was happy to hear that he was trying his hand at Young Adult. After reading The Great American Whatever, I’d have to say he’s graduated with honors.
Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.
Summary from Goodreads.com
I’ve never experienced a loss of a sibling, and hope not to a child, but Tim’s characters illustrate exactly how I’d imagine it would feel. Quinn and his mother pretty much give up on everything after Annabeth dies. Quinn sticks to his room and gives up on writing; his mother sleeps on the sofa and overeats. Annabeth's death leaves both of them in a believable depression and affects their whole community.
The only thing that didn’t really sit well with me about the situation was that the principal of the high school had middle schoolers paint a portrait of Annabeth on the side of the school and it makes her look like a pug. I would have expected flowers and maybe a framed photo?
The novel starts with Geoff, Quinn’s charming best friend, encouraging him to go a college party (I’m discovering a lot of YA novels involve house parties) where not much happens besides Quinn meeting this hot guy, Amir. Geoff and Quinn’s relationship is a positive example that a straight guy can be friends with a gay guy – even if the straight guy does disgusting things like name his farts. Quinn isn’t quite out of the closet – he hasn’t told his mother – but the story isn’t centered on that.
The novel then focuses on Quinn’s developing relationship with Amir, his dealing with the events that surround his sister’s death, and his finding his way back to his passion, which is writing screenplays. Quinn and Amir’s relationship starts out healthy, but it’s evident that they both have different ideas of what they want out of it and its direction. I’m not sure I’m happy with where it did go – but not all relationships go the way we want them, do they?
There’s a lot of great YA coming out this year, and I’m pretty sure The Great American Whatever will be at the top of my list of favorites. I would definitely recommend it to older teens and adults looking for a funny, yet heartwarming story.
The Great American Whatever is due out from Simon & Schuster on March 29, 2016. *Disclosure: I received an advance review copy from a coworker.