Title: The Great American Whatever
Author: Tim Federle
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Y’all, <i>this book.</i> As soon as I got about a quarter done, I immediately hopped on the CBR Book Chat facebook page and commanded you all to read it. I hope some of you listened (*stern look*) because this book is adorable and sweet and funny and hits you right in the feels. I’ve been following Federle on twitter for awhile (and you should also do that) and I’m aware he’s written some middle-grade books, but this was his first YA novel. Last week was my last week at a beloved job, and I needed a little something to cheer me up and my word, this did it.
The Great American Whatever is the story of Quinn, a soon-to-be seventeen year old boy in Pittsburgh, the summer before his senior year of high school. He’s spent the past six months hiding from the world, after the sudden death of his sister Annabeth. His father has long taken off and his mother is sleepwalking through her grief, feeding it wish naps and junk food. Quinn wants to write movies, a love given to him by the older brother of a neighbor when he was a boy. He and Annabeth would work as a team; Quinn would write, Annabeth would direct. He wanted them to go to Hollywood and become another famous sibling team, taking over Hollywood. Quinn is also struggling with his sexuality, trying to come to terms with coming out.
Of course, in death, our secrets are often revealed. Annabeth’s life wasn’t all Quinn thought it was, and since her death, she’s been in a pedestal in his memory. While this is hardly the biggest part of the story, of Quinn’s story, but the one that appealed to me the most. When we love someone so much, we can be blinded by the truth. A person we look up to, a person we admire so much, we tend to see only what we want to. This was the case with Quinn and Annabeth. For Quinn, Annabeth was his hero, his best friend. Along with Quinn’s best friend, Geoff, the three of them made movies and basically survived life. Coming to terms with Annabeth’s death, as well as the secrets it turned up, was one of the strongest points of the book for me.
Also well-done was Quinn’s story with Amir, a boy (man?) he meets at a party thrown by Geoff’s sister.
“I. Love. Bowling,” I say, and Amir takes my hand, and a field of fireflies appears inside my chest and they all light up at once.”
First love is always such a fun story to tell. This one is beautiful and sweet and poignant. In figuring out his relationship, if any, with Amir, Quinn really does go on a journey to figure out himself. He’s been closed up for so long, waiting for the right people to pull him back out. Geoff, of course, is the first one and the person who ends up being the reason Quinn meets Amir. Federle is such a fun writer when it comes to the Amir story. It’s a good thing I got the Kindle edition, because I have so many dang highlights in this book, the whole thing would be yellow if it was a physical copy. It’s a story of joy and excitement and wistfulness and waking up. It makes you remember the first time you ever really liked someone and they liked you back and every feeling that comes with that.
This book was just such a delight. It’s really a take of awakening and realizing that the world is so much bigger and more complicated and more wonderful that you’ve known. Federle captures that feeling of being 17 and having to start making hard decisions and of straddling the line between childhood and adulthood. This book reminded me SO MUCH of a Rainbow Rowell book, in all the best possible ways. If that’s up your alley, then do pick this up.