Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle

Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he’d settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There’s an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

nate

Better Nate Than Ever has racked up an impressive list of honors and awards. Although targeted at middle graders, readers of all ages will enjoy this hilarious book.  Through Nate’s eyes, readers are given a glimpse of how fabulous New York City can be. It brought back memories of navigating the busy streets, and experiencing the wonder and magic of the bright lights, loud noises and interesting smells!

Nate’s NYC audition adventure reminds us all the have the courage and heart to follow our dreams.  He is quite the comedian, and I found myself laughing a long with him. Although there are plenty of laughs to be had, Federle also covers serious ground through Nate’s questioning sexuality and his mothers’ unresolved family conflict that has hindered Nate’s relationship with his Aunt Heidi. I too have experienced family tension with an estranged aunt, so I could totally connect with Nate and cheer for their reconciliation.

I thought both serious matters were handled perfectly and age appropriately. Although Nate hints at his sexuality, it is never declared. In fact, Nate asserts, “I am undecided… and frankly don’t want to declare anything other than ‘Hey, jerks. I’m thirteen. Leave me alone. Macaroni and cheese is still my favourite food-how would I know who I want to hook up with? (p.27)” YES! I think Federle deserves a BIG round of applause for including that line.

I urge you to pick up this hilarious and inspiring book. I can’t wait to read the sequel- Five, Six, Seven, Nate!  to find out about Nate’s showbiz debut!

 

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To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

 

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

to all the boys photo

My first Jenny Han read comes compliments of PLA. I eyed the gorgeous cover, and scooped it up immediately. I connected with the narrator Lara Jean, right from the first page. I too am a keeper of all things and love to bake, knit, scrapbook and go antiquing. Like Lara Jean, I also would pour my emotions into my writing, opting for poems/songs instead of letters. I’m not sure how I would have reacted to someone sending my past loves these notes, but I thought Lara Jean handled it exceptionally well.  Her character was well written, and felt authentic. Her sisterly bond with Margot and Kitty were a nice addition to some of the typical high school stories.  It is a unique and interesting dynamic, and I’m glad it’s portrayed realistically, including the frequent fights and makeups!

In terms of romance, there is a bit of a love triangle… but really, Lara Jean’s real love interest becomes blatantly obvious and makes the storyline a tad predictable.  However, the ending to their complicated love story is anything but. I was expecting everything to wrap up beautifully, so I embraced the messier ending, and was able to imagine my own conclusion. I know many readers disagree with me, but I really hope it remains a standalone novel as the story felt complete as is. UPDATE-Found out book #2 P.S. I Still Love You is in the works for 2015. BUMMER.

I encourage you to add this contemporary high school romance to your reader radar. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available April 15, 2014.

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