Friday, July 22, 2016
Review: the great american whatever by Tim Federle
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 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. ~ Goodreads
Source: Finished copy provided by Simon & Schuster Books at ALA16
The Great American Whatever is a quirky coming of age story that’s often laugh out loud funny, despite all the overwhelming grief the protagonist, Quinn, is feeling.
After the death of his sister, Annabeth, Quinn has closed himself off from school, friends and most importantly his film making. Once an obsession, Quinn can’t seem to finish his screen play without the A to his Q in Q&A Productions.
His best friend Geoff finally drags him out of the house to a college party where he meets the very sexy Amir, forcing Quinn back into the world and to face things he’s been avoiding for years. His sexuality, his self absorption, his future, Annabeth’s death and most importantly what is real vs the script for life he always has running in his head.
Quinn has a way of viewing everyone as as actors and life as a series of acts as a way of seeing the world and people as he wants them to be rather than how they are. He experiences a seismic shift once reality and truth can’t be avoided anymore.
Quinn’s grief is palpable but somehow not overwhelming because of his self deprecating humor. It seems odd to find humor in that much grief but it was this that made me connect to Quinn the most. I just got him – and his coping mechanisms – because that’s what I did when my mother died when I was in HS. You just want to form a protective shield around yourself and not be *that kid that lost someone* and avoid the awkward questions and well meaning conversations that follow. And it’s also difficult to move on and be happy when the person you loved can’t.
The book isn’t perfect. The writing could be a little precious in that way that YA book teens seemingly always have a witty comeback or know loads and loads of trivia but I think it works for Quinn. As a movie buff, I believed that he would be that quirky, awkward, smart and funny.
The book is also rooted in reality. That not everything works out perfect. Sometimes a first love is just that – the first – one of many to come and that’s ok. That maybe your sister was never as high on the pedestal that you tried to put her on. That your mom is flawed but she’s your mom and she’s trying.
There’s a bit of drama with Qunn’s best friend, Geoff, that acts as a catalyst for some things but, to me, opened a whole can of worms that the book didn’t quite have the time to explore fully but it’s a minor complaint.
The Great American Whatever is an easy, breezy type of read that nonetheless contains profound moments. It reminded me of a somewhat more grown-up version of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda with a bit of that John Green type dialogue.