Title: The Great American Whatever
Author: Tim Federle
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Release Date: March 29, 2016
Source: ARC from Publisher
From the award-winning author of Better Nate Than Ever comes a laugh-out-loud sad YA debut that’s a wry and winning testament to the power of old movies and new memories—one unscripted moment at a time.Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.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 imaging 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.
Tim Federle is one of those authors I’ve known about for a long time, but hadn’t read any of his books no matter how many great reviews they were getting. But when I found out he was (finally) writing a YA, I was all over that. And The Great American Whatever went above and beyond any expectations I had.
For the past six months, Quinn Roberts has been hibernating in his room, (not) dealing with his grief after his older sister’s death. But his best friend has finally had enough and is determined to bring Quinn back into the land of the living. What happens when Quinn leaves his room? He goes to a party, drinks his first beer, meets a hot guy, and, most importantly, he starts thinking about the future again. But for Quinn, that future is like a screenplay, perfectly planned out with just the right dialogue. But sometimes, real life isn’t like you imagine the movie of your life to be.
Though I haven’t actually read any of Tim Federle’s middle grade titles, he’s an author who’s been on my radar for quite some time. I mean, I love reading his tweets. So when it was announced that he was releasing a YA novel, I was all over it. I wanted to read The Great American Whatever pretty much from the moment I found out about it. There was just something about the synopsis that caught my attention and made me want to read this story. And now months after originally finding out about it, I have finally read The Great American Whatever and I can say that it was fantastic! If you’ve read the synopsis, then you know that this story has the potential to be kind of dark. I mean, it’s about a teenage boy dealing with the death of his sister. That’s hardly a light and fluffy subject. But the story didn’t feel heavy while I was reading. The Great American Whatever was written in a way that depicted the reality of grief while still having plenty of funny moments. On more than one occasions, I actually felt like laughing at some of the things Quinn would say or do. And when I think about it, Quinn is really the reason this story didn’t get as dark and heavy as it could have. And I loved Quinn.
Quinn was such an unexpected character. It’s not that I went into The Great American Whatever thinking that I wouldn’t like him, I just didn’t expect to like him as much as I did. I loved the way he talked about his life and told his story, at times it felt like he was talking directly at me as opposed to me just reading his story. It allowed me to get that much more into the story. I loved his snarkiness and his deadpan humor. I loved the way he would imagine how moments in his life would play out in a screenplay. I just loved Quinn. He completely creeped up on me over the course of this story and by the time I reached the end, I would have been very happy to just keep reading about him. As much as this was Quinn’s story, I also found that it was also very much a story about Annabeth, Quinn’s dead older sister. Though she’s been dead for close to six months at the start of the story, she’s very much present throughout. Whether it’s because Quinn is constantly thinking about what his sister would think about what he was doing or because people are constantly referencing her, Annabeth is just always there. It just made for an interesting dynamic and added another layer to this story.
Can a book be both sad and funny at the same time? Because that’s exactly what Tim Federle’s The Great American Whatever was. This story went above and beyond my expectations and I loved every page of it.