Review: Winger by Andrew Smith

WingerTitle: Winger

Author: Andrew Smith

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Release Date: May 14th, 2013

Interest: Contemp / Guy appeal / Humor / Illustrated

Source: Borrowed from the library

Summary (From Goodreads):

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Right now I’m having a difficult time figuring out what I want to say about Winger because Andrew Smith left me heartbroken and hopeful at the same time.  I can say that Ryan Dean West is now one of my favorite characters and Winger is now one of my favorite books.

I absolutely love finding books with guy appeal.  Winger falls into this category perfectly.  Ryan Dean’s voice struck true from the first to the last page.  He’s a fourteen-year-old boy and he talks, thinks, and acts like one.  Believe me, I’ve taught freshmen boys for the past six years.  There’s bathroom humor and humor from things that probably aren’t supposed to be funny, but Ryan Dean’s reactions and thoughts make this a laugh out loud book.  For the first 4oo pages I was constantly laughing and smiling.  Andrew Smith’s writing in this book made me think of Geoff Herbach’s writing in Stupid Fast.  Both stories are funny, include sports, and will get guys reading, but they also delve into a deeper story.

When I read that this is heartbreaking, I kept waiting for something heartbreaking to happen and wondering what it would be.  I was both prepared and unprepared for the moment.  I’m not going to go into too much detail because I don’t want to take away from that experience for you when you read Winger.  I read the page and sighed because I expected something like that to happen.  I turned the page, let the moment and scene hit me, and then I cried.  Not long after I finished reading this I still had to keep taking deep breaths.  I wasn’t sobbing or anything, but I had to let myself digest what I read.  I spent so much time loving this book and getting to know the characters that this moment felt like a punch in the face.  And I mean that in the best possible way.  I have mixed feelings about where this scene is placed, but I understand the reasoning for it.  When you read it, which I hope you will, we should discuss it.

Now, on to the whole John Green thing.  I can already see the comparisons to John Green’s writing and one of his books in particular.  I get it.  BUT, Winger is not that book and Andrew Smith is not John Green.  I love John Green and all, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one of his books and thought, “Yeah, my kids are just like (insert character name).”  I’ve read his books and thought of students who would like reading them, but I’ve never been able to picture one of my students as a character.  The characters in Winger are REAL.  I pictured a number of former students and others when I was reading this.  I’m confident that my students will appreciate this when they read it.

The copy of Winger I read belongs to my local library, but you can be sure that I plan on buying at least two copies of this book for my classroom library.  It’s that kind of book.  Andrew Smith has written something special.

Similar Reads: Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, Leverage by Joshua C. Cohen

Highlight at the end of this for a title rec if you’re okay with a spoiler: October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman

Review: I’m With Stupid by Geoff Herbach

I'm With Stupid new coverTitle: I’m With Stupid

Author: Geoff Herbach

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: May 7, 2013

Interest: Series / Author

Source: ARC received from the author

Summary (From the publisher):

It’s nerd-turned-jock Felton Reinstein’s last year before college, and the choices he makes now will affect the rest of his life. That’s a lot of pressure. So, he’s going to make a list. What would he be if he weren’t a jock? He’ll try everything—comedian, partier, super student—and which ever identity he likes best he’ll stick with. Poof. Stress gone.

Except not… Because the list leads to:

1. The whole state of Wisconsin hating him.
2. His track coach suspending him.
3. His mom moving out.

Before leaving home forever, Felton will have to figure out just who he is, even if, sometimes, it sucks to be him.

I’m so sad to write this review because it means I’m done reading Felton’s story.  I’m also extremely excited to write this review because I absolutely love how Felton’s story ended.  If you haven’t read Stupid Fast, or if you have read Stupid Fast and haven’t read Nothing Special yet, I really hope you amend that.  Felton Reinstein is one of my absolute favorite characters.  If you’re a reader, you really need to meet Felton.

Geoff Herbach is simply a talented author.  While I was reading I’m With Stupid, I was laughing on one page and crying on the other.  His writing is perfectly balanced so the reader experiences everything fully.  Felton is dealing with tons of anxiety in I’m With Stupid, and I felt that anxiety while I was reading.  When Felton was happy, I was happy.  When Felton was beside himself, I was beside myself.  It’s not often that I so fully experience the same emotions as the characters I’m reading.  Stupid Fast and Nothing Special made me feel the same way, but I’m With Stupid packs a more emotional punch, at least it did for me.  I know this final installment of Felton’s story will really speak to teen readers, especially the teens who feel the pressure to succeed in anything, not just sports.

After reading Nothing Special, I’m really happy that Andrew and their grandpa play a bigger role in I’m With Stupid.  They’re both interesting and smart characters that add a whole new layer to Felton’s personality and character.  I love how insightful they both are and the way they guide Felton from afar.  Felton desperately needs guidance in this book.  At the same time though, we get to see Felton mature and want to become a guide for others.  His character arc is wonderful and commendable.

Geoff Herbach has written an utterly sincere trilogy that is  perfectly paced.  Before I even received the ARC of I’m With Stupid, I had a list of guys in class who wanted to read it.  When I received my copy, I handed it off to one of my students before I read it myself.  He finished it in two days and couldn’t wait to discuss it.  Geoff’s writing and stories really connect with teens, especially teen boys.

Skyping with Geoff Herbach

If you’re familiar with my blog, then you should know that I’m a huge Felton Reinstein fan.  Of all the books I’ve read, Felton is absolutely one of my favorite characters.  Every chance I get, I spread the Felton love and recommend Stupid Fast to readers/non-readers.  So it makes sense that I’m also a huge Geoff Herbach fan since he created Felton.

My Sophomore Seminar students have been writing and reading up a storm this school year, so I approached a few authors about sharing some of their advice on revision.  I approached Geoff about it, and he gave me three revised versions of the first page of I’m With Stupid, his final book in the Felton series.  Besides the fact that it’s awesome to be connected with such talented and generous authors, being provided with the opportunity to see the revision that took place just on that one page was really eye-opening for my students.  Thankfully Geoff accepted my request to Skype with my two Sophomore Seminar classes so we could discuss this.

First, I have to give Geoff major kudos.  He’s an hour behind us, and it was 8am our time when we started, but he woke up extra early so he could talk with my first and second hours.  And he was dealing with a malfunctioning furnace; I think he said it was around 52 degrees in his house at the moment. In February. In Minnesota.  He’s a trooper!

Anyway, both hours had a fantastic time talking with Geoff.  It was the perfect mix of serious questions about his books, his writing, revision, his life, funny stories, etc.  A couple students asked him questions about his covers which sparked an interesting discussion, and we also discussed how he came up with his titles.  Some of my aspiring authors asked him questions about getting started and how he works with his editor.  My students were really engaged and left class telling me that they want to read his books.  Mission accomplished.  Plus, each class ended on a goofy note.  My 1st hour was showing me some funny music video clips with goats while we waited to start our chat, so we had to show him the videos too.  One of my students has an iPad, so she put it in front of the camera and played it for him.  My second hour mentioned the Promethean board during our chat (it’s a long story how we reached that point), and one way or another it was decided to draw goofy faces around his face.  Geoff cracked us up while we did this; we even turned the camera around so he could see what my student was drawing.  We sent him pictures of course :)

Skype with Geoff 1 Skype with Geoff 2

I felt a little guilty using a class period to Skype with Geoff after having so many short weeks due to snow days, but this was an experience that many of my students absolutely loved and will probably remember long after this school year ends.  This is why I wish  more teachers embraced young adult literature.  Students can connect with YA authors online, through email, via Skype, etc.  My students can’t Skype with William Golding and ask him questions about Lord of the Flies.  My student isn’t going to receive a personalized bookmark with research help for a project from Harper Lee (in reference to the very awesome Sarah Darer Littman who sent a bookmark to one of my students who read Want to Go Private? for her research project about online predators).  I’m not saying we should abandon the classics, but including YA literature in our curriculum opens up a lot of doors for our students that the classics can’t.  If you ever get the opportunity to Skype with an author, I highly recommend you do so.  I’ve Skyped with a few authors and each experience has been rewarding for my students.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish People I Want to Meet

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish

The YA book community is pretty darn fantastic, and over the past couple years I’ve come across some wonderful authors/teachers/librarians/bloggers who I would love to meet!  This post is all about them and my list is in no particular order.

Matthew Quick–I’ve only read his most recent book, Boy21, but it continues to make me happy every time I read it aloud to my students.  If an author has written a book that I want to read and share with my students over and over again, then he/she is worth meeting.

Gae Polisner–I’ve done everything short of meeting Gae in person since I “met” her a couple years ago.  We’ve emailed, we’ve Facebooked, we’ve Twitter(ed?), and we’ve even Skyped.  I even teach her debut novel, The Pull of Gravity.  Can I meet you in person already, Gae?! ;)

Amy Fellner Dominy–Her books make me smile.  OyMG and Audition & Subtraction are both adorable and so worth reading.  I love chatting with Amy on Twitter and Facebook, so it’s about time I get to meet her! :)

Geoff Herbach–Are you sensing a trend here?  I kind of love the Class of 2K11.  Stupid Fast has turned so many of my male students into readers.  I want to meet him in person so I can thank him for his book and what it does for my students.

Courtney Summers–She’s another author who hooks my students within the first few pages of her books.  Her writing is engrossing and her stories are heart-wrenching.  I really hope I get to meet her one day.

Lisa Schroeder–I’ve loved every single one of her verse novels.  They’re engrossing, beautifully written, and almost always hook my reluctant female readers.  Plus, she lives in one of my favorite areas, the Pacific Northwest, so it would be super cool to meet her out there.  If you haven’t read I Heart You, You Haunt Me or Chasing Brooklyn or any of her other books, then you’re really missing out.

Allison R (@reader4evr)–I can’t remember how Allison and I started chatting on Twitter, but I love talking books with her.  She’s one of my go-to people when I need a good book recommendation, so I know we’d have fun if we met in person.

Jennifer Fountain (@jennann516)–Jenn and I would be super good friends if we could get together in real life.  I just know it :)  She and I have so many similar teaching/reading tastes that it would be amazing if we could one day teach at the same school.  It probably won’t happen, but I often dream of the “super school” made up of the fabulous teachers and librarians I follow on Twitter.  You can also keep up with Jenn through her blog, Fountain Reflections.

Crys Hodgens (@thehodgenator)–Crys is another super teacher.  She is full of awesome teaching ideas, she reads great books, and she pins all kinds of cool things on Pinterest.  Plus she blogs about almost all of those things I just listed.  Crys is another teacher I’d want at my dream “super school.”

Kyle (@BookPensieve)–Kyle is a fellow Michigan teacher so there’s actually a pretty good chance we could meet in person.  I love chatting with her on Twitter about books and teaching since we have so much in common and share lots of ideas.  She’s also a blogger at A Reader’s Pensieve.

Some YA Guys You Should Know

Okay, so maybe you can’t actually “meet” these YA guys, but they’re definitely some fab characters you should “get to know.”  I originally meant for this to be a Top Ten Tuesday post, but I posted a review that day and ended up not having the time to write a second post.  So I guess it’s a Top Ten Sunday post :)

Anyway, I’m always on the hunt for books with guy appeal, so that’s how I’ve come across some of these characters.  I also appreciate laugh-out-loud funny books, and quite a few of these guys caused me to LOL.  I hope you enjoy my random Sunday post!

My Favorite YA Guys

Felton Reinstein–If you’ve been following my blog for the past year, then you are probably well aware of my love for Stupid Fast and Nothing Special.  If not, check out my reviews here and here.  In short, Geoff Herbach knows guys and he writes awesomely real guy characters.

 

Jace Witherspoon–Jace is another very real, very authentic character.  If you haven’t read Split by Swathi Avasthi, you need to move it to the top of your TBR pile.  His character will take you on a roller coaster of emotions.  I was hopeful, shocked, angry, protective, etc when I read Split.  (Here’s my review if you’re interested.)

Finley & Russ–Finley and Russ from Matthew Quick’s Boy 21 have to be listed together because they’re equally wonderful.  Finley is the narrator, but he’s very quiet and simply doesn’t talk much.  He’s also very loyal to his family, his girlfriend, his basketball team, and his coach.  He’s a character you cheer for and grow attached to.  Russ is suffering after the death of his parents and refers to himself as Boy 21, a person who will be going back to space any day now.  He and Finley are paired up for a variety of reasons.  They’re journey together and growing friendship is heartwarming and heartbreaking.  (My review)

Tom Raines–Insignia is a fantastic sci-fi debut, most of which is due to Tom Raines as the main character.  He’s very funny and very relateable, even if he’s a superhuman war machine later in the novel (Don’t worry, I didn’t spoil that. It’s in the summary.).  As a teacher, it’s easy for me to hand this book to the right guys in class because I know exactly which guys and which types of guys will enjoy Tom Raines and this book. (I reviewed this as well.)

Chuck Taylor–I didn’t end up reviewing Lexapros and Cons, and I’m really not sure why I didn’t, but it’s a seriously funny book.  It’s also full of sexual innuendo, straight up sex jokes, and foul language, but none of that kept me from enjoying it.  All of those factors are what made the book and the main character, Chuck Taylor, so funny.  He suffers from OCD, and this book navigates us through his life as he tries to deal with his disorder.  Despite the language and jokes, I’ve added Aaron Karo’s book to my class library because Chuck Taylor is a character that my guys in class will relate to and enjoy.  Here’s the link to the Lexapros and Cons Goodreads page.

Jasper (Jazz) Dent–Jazz Dent has some serious issues courtesy of his serial killer father.  He grew up with a father who taught him how to be a serial killer, and now with his dad in jail, there’s another serial killer on the loose in Jazz’s town.  Jazz ends up getting involved with the case, which stirs up an overadunance of emotions and memories he’d rather forget.  I like Jazz’s character because he’s witty, smart, vulnerable, and not wholly trustable.  I spent most of the book second-guessing what he did and said, which is a big reason why I like the book.  It kept me on my toes the entire time I read it.  (My review of I Hunt Killers)

Travis–Something Like Normal is a top notch book with a spot-on male protagonist.  I love it when flawed characters are written well, and I love it even more when those flawed characters can find their way to self-acceptance.  So many readers, male and female, will appreciate and love this book.  I know my guys in class will love it, so my class library will have multiple copies of Something Like Normal this coming school year.  (My review)

Ron Weasley–Is it safe to assume that we all know (and maybe love) Ron Weasley?  I know he isn’t the star of Harry Potter, but I simply adore him.  I can’t help but love the underdog, especially when he’s kind of dorky and pretty funny.

Tiny Cooper–Have you read Will Grayson, Will Grayson yet?  It’s one of those books that I wish more of my students would read because it’s just so good.  And funny.  And poignant.  I appreciate you, Tiny Cooper.  (My review)

Arnold “Junior” Spirit–I can’t finish this list without including Junior from The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  His description of himself within the first few pages of the book had me snorting with laughter.  The illustrations that depict his life are charming and insightful.  The hardships he faces made me teary a number of times throughout the book.  If you haven’t read Sherman Alexie’s fantastic novel yet, I really hope you do soon.

Book Covers: What My Freshmen Think

A week ago I posted about what my Y.A. Lit students think of book covers.  The day it posted I received tons of feedback and also passed out a book covers survey to my freshmen to get a broader view.  This time I added two parts to the survey: providing their gender and providing examples of book covers they like.  I polled 43 boys and 34 girls for a total of 77 freshmen.  My post also includes images of some of the covers mentioned in the surveys.

1. What about a book draws your attention the most?

  • Cover design–58%
  • Author/reviewer blurb–3%
  • Summary–39%

2. What kind of cover design do you prefer the most?

  • Models on the cover–25%
  • Objects/scenes related to the story–75%

**Note–This was the same in my Y.A. Lit class**

3. What kind of color combination draws you the most?

“There isn’t really a color combination that draws me in more than others.”

“Red and black”

“Bright colors”

“Red mixed with black and white”

“Bright and dark in one”

“Pink, purple, blue–cute colors”

“Green and yellow”

“Orange and blue”

“Neon or 1 or 2 solid colors and an all caps, stencil, huge title.”

“I really don’t care, but if it has fun colors it will catch my attention.”

“It doesn’t matter, I pretty much read what you say is good.”

4. Is font style & placement important to you? Explain.

  • Yes–40%
  • No–60%

“Bold and artistic to draw me in to see what the title is.”

“Not really. It’s more about what it says than the font or placement.”

“I like it when the font is popped out and in your face.”

“Not really, it really depends on what’s between the covers.”

“The author’s name should be at the bottom.”

“Not really because I’m going to read the title no matter what.”

I Hunt Killers is a good example when font matters.”

5. Would you feel comfortable reading a book w/a gender-specific feel to it? (Guys reading a book w/a “girly” cover.)

  • Yes–65%
  • No–35%

“Not really, unless somebody points it out (multiple times).” –Male

“I don’t care as long as it’s a good book.” –Male

“Yeah, as long as it’s not hardcore manly.” –Female

6. Do you prefer to see the character’s “face” or would you rather imagine the character on your own?

  • See the character’s face–34%
  • Use your imagination–66%

“Seeing the face ruins the book for me.”

“Seeing their face is easier, but imagining them is more fun so either one.”

“I do sometimes. I really like the models on the covers of Wither and Fever.”

7. If possible, please provide some examples of covers that you like and why.

Divergent–The symbol looks to be on fire, and it is connected to the story.”

Bad Girls Don’t Die, Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, If I Stay, Where She Went, Night World.  All of these books have interesting covers.”

“I like the cover for Stupid Fast because it looks like he’s alone; it makes you wonder.”

Payback Time because it’s about sports.”

Epic Fail–It’s cute and fun.  Catching Jordan–It kind of explains the book.”

The Hunger Games–Looks tough and serious.  Shiver–Draws my attention.”

“Anything by Simone Elkeles. Hers have models and they really interest me.  I like covers that look romantic.”

Fracture, The Hunger Games, and Living Dead Girl because they leave you with questions.”

Other Words for Love because it’s cute.”

Split and Crescendo

Catching Jordan–Cute and pops”

The Pull of Gravity because I like the colors and how you can see the characters, but everything’s sort of muted.”

“I like the cover for I Hunt Killers because it catches my attention.  I also like the cover for Trapped because it helps me visualize the school they were trapped in.”

Forever by Judy Blume and Boy Meets Boy because Forever is girly and I like the colors in Boy Meets Boy.”

House of  Night, The Mortal Instruments, Hush, Hush, stuff like that.  I like that the models aren’t too detailed but enough to get an image of the character.”

“I like the cover for Across the Universe because there are people but not faces; it’s mysterious.”

Boy 21, Paranoid Park, and I Hunt Killers because they just stick out or have the character on it.  They let you picture something while staying mysterious.”

The House of Night series: This is because they show the main character’s unique tattoos.”

Divergent–very bold”

Insurgent because it makes me wonder why there is a tree with a circle around it.”

“The cover for Hold Still is good because even though it shows the girl, it also briefly tells the story just by looking at it.”

Nothing Special Blog Tour: Geoff Herbach Guest Post & Giveaway

I’m very excited to feature a wonderful guest post written by Geoff Herbach about why writing for guys is so important:

Stupid Fast has been out for almost a year.  It’s been really great.  I’ve traveled a bit, met lots of writers and librarians and bloggers.  Best of all, though, I’ve met “elusive” teen boy readers – both through my blog, email and in person.  Good stuff.

 I do have some concerns, though.

 A really smart 16-year-old from Brooklyn wrote to tell me how much he loved Stupid Fast.  He also said, “I hate books, always have.”  What?  A freshman at a high school I visited the other day told me: “I only like two books.  Stupid Fast and this other one I can’t remember.”  Okay…  I have had similar exchanges again and again in the last year.  It reinforces the reason I wanted to write Stupid Fast in the first place: there is a good-sized subset of kids who don’t have enough books to read.  I was that kind of kid.

 When I was fourteen-years-old, I played sports and played in the orchestra, tried out for plays and did okay in school. On paper I looked like a normal kid, maybe even a pretty high achieving kid.

 Here’s the truth, though: I was all crazy on the inside. I was all like: “I should shower again because… is there a weird smell? What are you looking at? I think Kerri and Audrey are laughing at me. I hate them!  My shirt doesn’t fit. What’s that smell?   I love Jenny. I love her. She hates me! What’s wrong with my shirt? There’s definitely something wrong with my ear. What are you looking at? What’s that weird smell?” ETC.

 Crazy. But… here’s the truth: not abnormal.

 Having taught writing to college kids for the last six years, I know something for a fact: Almost everyone (male or female) felt like a dork as a teen. They write essays about it. But, boy culture puts a premium on hiding the truth. The girls in my classes are better at expressing it.  Many have read books for years that help them make sense of things.  Boys, who need the help most, have very few books that address their concerns.  A few years ago, my son decided fantasy no longer spoke to him, then he read a few books that did then stopped reading, because he could find nothing that spoke to him.

 I had a similar experience.  When I was fourteen, I read. A lot. If I hadn’t read Catcher in the Rye my life would’ve been much worse. Holden Caufield’s thoughts were so familiar to me. Even if they were a little terrifying, and he was on the edge, I knew that I wasn’t alone. I began to devour anything with a male protagonist. The more gritty, the more down to earth, the better (this was a big change, because up until that point, I pretty much read fantasy). Vision Quest, The Chocolate War, I am the Cheese, A Separate Peace… But soon, I ran out of material.  I read some adult titles, but slowed down and almost stopped.

 The publishing industry believes that boys don’t read, so they don’t publish books for them.  My anecdotal evidence contradicts this belief to some extent.  The boys I’m meeting enjoyed reading books that were meant for them, that directly address their way of thinking – which isn’t always pretty, but isn’t dumb or simple, either.   

 I’m on a mission, I guess. I want to write good stories aimed squarely at teen boys. In a decade, I want to have dudes come up to me and list ten books they love.  The girls I’m meeting are able to do this!  Girls are so lucky to have dozens of great books coming every month that speak to their experience. 

 If you’re a writer, maybe think about writing for boys?  If you’re a reader, ask a librarian what’s new that speaks to boys.  They’ll know (because there aren’t many titles).  Maybe we’ll build a bigger market for these young men who need material so much!

 Yeah, that’s my dream.

Thank you, Geoff, for sharing this post with us and stopping by the blog today! :D

Not only is today awesome because Geoff Herbach wrote a post for my blog, but also because the fab people at Sourcebooks Fire are offering a copy of Nothing Special to one lucky winner!

Entry Guidelines:
To enter, please leave a comment about a book you recommend with guy appeal or a comment about the post :)
You must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada.
You must be at least 13 years old to enter.
No extra entries required, but spreading the word is appreciated!
The winner will be announced through a blog post here & emailed.
The winner will have 48 hours to respond.
Giveaway closes 5/19/12 @ 12:01 EST

Book Trailer Thursday (63)–Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach

So I guess I’m all about Geoff Herbach and his greatness this week!  I was on his website and found this new book trailer for Stupid Fast, which I really like because it was made by teens.  I’m looking forward to showing this to my students since I’m offering  an extra credit opportunity which allows them to make book trailers.  I hope you like it!

Summary (From Goodreads):

Praise for Stupid Fast
“A rare mix of raw honesty and hilarity. Stupid Fast is Stupid Good “
-Peter Bognanni,
author of The House of Tomorrow
I AM NOT STUPID FUNNY.
I AM STUPID FAST.
My name is Felton Reinstein, which is not a fast name. But last November, my voice finally dropped and I grew all this hair and then I got stupid fast. Fast like a donkey. Zing.
Now they want me, the guy they used to call Squirrel Nut, to try out for the football team. With the jocks. But will that fix my mom? Make my brother stop dressing like a pirate? Most important, will it get me girls -especially Aleah?
So I train. And I run. And I sneak off to Aleah’s house in the night. But deep down I know I can’t run forever. And I wonder what will happen when I finally have to stop.

 

Review: Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach

Nothing Special coverTitle: Nothing Special

Author: Geoff Herbach

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Release Date: May 1st, 2012

Interest: Author / Sequel

Source: ARC received from the author

Summary (From Goodreads): Felton Reinstein thought he had it all-a great girlfriend, an athletic scholarship in the bag, and football friends he could totally count on. Wrong Like an elephant storming a house of cards, it all comes crashing down. And it’s Felton’s fault. Turns out his little brother has taken an impromptu road trip to Florida (aka desperate flight from all the talented people) to make a bid for stardom (aka fronting a hotel rock band with escapees from a retirement community). What’s a big brother to do but help pick up the pieces, even if it means giving up all the status, all the glory and once again facing a life of nothing special.

If you’ve been following my blog, then you know that I LOVED Geoff Herbach’s debut Stupid Fast.  Felton Reinstein is an authentic character with a real voice which rocked my socks as a reader.  Herbach doesn’t disappoint with his sequel Nothing Special.  Around the time Stupid Fast released, Geoff was posting about the sequel and at the time it was going to be told from Andrew’s point of view.  I really liked that idea, but somewhere down the line the story changed slightly so Nothing Special is told from Felton’s point of view instead of Andrew’s.  Staying true to what I assume was Geoff Herbach’s original idea (I could be totally wrong in my assumption), Nothing Special focuses on Andrew and his relationship with Felton.  Some people are calling Nothing Special a companion, but I don’t recommend reading it without having read Stupid Fast; there’s too many references to events from his debut.

Nothing Special is really different from Stupid Fast.  To clarify, it’s different because Felton has matured since the first book which is apparent from the first page.  Also, Nothing Special is written as a letter of sorts from Felton to Aleah.  This change wasn’t what I expected and I liked it because it’s a change that really works and fits with the novel.  Something that hasn’t changed is how important family is to Felton.  He does have an odd way of showing the importance at times though.  Still, even though it’s not always apparent how important his family is to him, Felton really cares about Andrew and we get to see that in Nothing Special.  I love the balance between how Felton is handling life changes (Aleah being away for music, thinking about playing college sports, dealing with friendships) and the problems Andrew is (has) been facing.

Speaking of Andrew–I love that quirky kid!  He really cares about Felton and wants at least some of those feelings returned by his brother.  At times he seems like the typical annoying little brother, but Andrew’s really more than that.  He’s very smart, intuitive, and quite sneaky.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know him better in Nothing Special.  Andrew kept tugging at my heart while at the same time had me cheering for him.  I hope we get to see more of him in the future, especially if he has more surprises up his sleeve!

Just as I expected, Geoff Herbach has written another winner.  My Stupid Fast fans in class are very excited to read Nothing Special, especially after I’ve been talking it up in class.  I hope everyone who’s read Stupid Fast goes out and gets a copy of Nothing Special to read because it’s actually quite special!

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