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Review of The Great American Whatever

federle_great american whateverThe Great American Whatever
by Tim Federle
High School    Simon    276 pp.
3/16    978-1-4814-0409-9    $17.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-0411-2    $10.99

Sixteen-year-old Quinn’s life is static: less than a year after his sister’s fatal car crash in front of their school and his father’s subsequent departure, his screenwriting ambitions have been put on hold, his social life has evaporated, and he and his grieving mother stay mostly confined to their house. When his best friend Geoff (who is straight) manages to drag him to a party, Quinn meets college-guy Amir and reemerges from his shell as they develop a mutual attraction. Fearing being seen as a pitiable figure defined only by tragedy, Quinn avoids sharing details of his personal life with Amir, but as the story progresses and he is pushed toward honesty, he begins to reveal his perspective on his sister’s accident, and in doing so learns that it might not be the whole story.  Although Quinn describes his life as “a fairly standard coming-of-age LGBT genre film, with a somewhat macabre horror twist,” the narrative focus is less on coming out (“It just seems like such a hassle to come out. I want to just be out”) than it is equal parts romance and friendship, humor and healing. Quinn’s relationships with his mom and Geoff are particularly well developed, but the entire cast is well rounded, flawed, funny, and human. Humorous, heartbreaking, and heartwarming, Federle’s (Better Nate Than Ever) YA debut takes its place in the lineage of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower and John Green’s coming-of-age tales.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Kazia Berkley-Cramer

Kazia Berkley-Cramer is a former editorial intern at The Horn Book.

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