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YA Review: Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

Title: Field Guide to the North American Teenager
AuthorBen Philippe
Year Published: 2019

Genre: YA fiction
Pages: 208
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2020 Google Reading map): USA (TX)

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed this book from my school library

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

Review: I chose this book because it won the William C. Morris Award, for best debut novel, from the American Library Association this year and I am really glad I read it. That's saying a lot since i started this book right before COVID-19 exploded, our schools shut down, and California insisted that we all stay home. It was difficult to concentrate on reading, but I persevered and finished!

Norris is a goof. He doesn't want to move to Texas from Canada, he hates the Texas heat, he's awkward around his peers, his dad has a new family, and, basically, he's not diggin' his life right now. Over the course of the novel, Norris does make some friends, does get involved in activities, and does screw up. A lot. Like, really a lot. Suffice it say, Norris needs to get his act together and there are a bunch of people telling him how and why along the way.

What feels like a light-hearted, humorous book sneaks in some really important moments that speak volumes. I won't tell you about them because I think you need to experience them for yourself as you read the book. 

Challenges for which this counts: 

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