Sunday, December 1, 2013

Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

Image from
Simon and Schuster, 2013

13 year old Nate Foster is not a fan of Janksburg, PA. No one, except his best friend Libby, understands his love of all things theatre. His family ignores him and his classmates call him names as they shove him into lockers. So when Libby finds out about an upcoming audition for E.T.: The Musical, they both know it’s Nate’s big chance to get out of Janksburg. And that’s why Nate is on a Greyhound Bus to “New York Manhattan City”, armed with his audition materials, his mom’s ATM card, and a couple dozen donuts. If all goes well, he can make it to the city, do his audition, and be home before his parents even notice he’s missing. Of course, things don’t really go as planned, throwing Nate into a whirlwind weekend in the city filled with casting directors, the biggest Applebee’s in the world, a long lost aunt, and maybe, just maybe, the chance to be on Broadway.

Written in first person from Nate’s point of view, this is a hilarious and touching story. Nate has a great voice—innocent, observant, funny, and sensitive—making him an endearingly flawed, yet charming, protagonist. This is a character-driven story, filled with a supporting cast of unique individuals, most notably, Libby and Nate’s mother (a recovering alcoholic). The book humorously touches on Nate’s sexual orientation in an age-appropriate way. His classmates call him a “fag”, but as Nate puts it, “I’m thirteen, leave me alone. Macaroni and cheese is still my favorite food–how would I know who I want to hook up with?” Nate also has the experience of meeting his aunt’s gay best friend and being astounded that two men can kiss in a club and no one punches them. The book is filled with musical theatre references, many of them rather obscure. However, if you give this to a theatre-loving kid they are most likely to be fascinated by these details, rather than put off. Federle is a professional actor and he uses his intimate knowledge of New York City and theatre to create a realistic depiction of the culture. The audition process is not idealized for young readers and Federle leaves the ending open as to whether or not Nate is cast in the show. A great story about being loved and appreciated for being the best version of yourself.

Read an excerpt of the book and find yourself rooting for Nate as he takes on New York City.

You can also watch this video of the author reading an excerpt of the book to get a flavor of the audiobook (also narrated by the author).

*Watch the movie, E.T., before/during/after reading this book. It’s fun to discuss where you think they would put in songs and dances if the movie was actually made into a Broadway musical.

*Learn more about Federle and his theatre career in this interview with Thomas Schumacher.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier
My Life: The Musical by Maryrose Wood

*Read more about Nate’s adventures in the upcoming sequel (to be published in 2014), Five, Six, Seven, Nate!

Age 12+ / Grade 6+


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