The Great American Whatever

I had big plans for my long weekend. I was going to catch up on my favorite shows, take a few naps, read about half a dozen books, and forget about the election madness for a while. My crappy immune system, however, had other plans. I don’t know about you guys, but, in addition to not being able to sleep when I’m sick, I also don’t feel much like reading. I did manage to finish one book, though, and I’ll try to piece together my thoughts on it before my antihistamines make me loopy again.

Yesterday, I finished reading The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle. Apparently, this novel is Federle’s first foray into YA fiction, but you’d never guess that while reading. This coming-of-age story is told with empathy, humor, sadness, and all that comes with growing comfortable in one’s own skin.

Almost-seventeen-year-old Quinn has been off the rails for months now. Ever since his sister Annabeth was tragically killed in a car accident, Quinn just doesn’t know how to go back to his old life. He’s given up school, any semblance of cleanliness, and his dream of being a screenwriter. None of it really means anything without Annabeth by his side.

Things begin to change one day, though, when Quinn’s best friend Geoff decides that it’s time for Quinn to get out of the house and start living again. In a very short time, Quinn cleans up (at least a little), gets a haircut, and goes to a college party. It’s at this party where he meets Amir, a guy who’s interested in Quinn for some odd reason.

In the week that follows, Quinn deals with his first romantic relationship, his guilt over his sister’s death, a reunion with an old friend and mentor, and a surprise that rocks everything he ever believed about his relationships with those closest to him. On top of that, he’s forced to confront the possibility of his future as a screenwriter, a future that he never truly thought possible after the loss of his sister.

How will things work out for Quinn? Could one week have the power to turn his life around?

There’s only one way to find out…


The Great American Whatever is a quick, entertaining read that is sure to delight film buffs and those who simply want a moving story.

I would say that this book is written for a YA audience. (I would not put it in a middle school library.) It includes sexual situations, alcohol use, and profanity. As always, though, read the book yourself before making any judgments. You never know who may need a book like this one.

If you’d like more information on The Great American Whatever and other books by Tim Federle, you can connect with the author on his website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Instagram.

With that, I will now leave you all to return to my weekend routine of coughing, sneezing, and praying for the ability to breathe easily.

 

You Know Me Well

Last night, I finished reading You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina LaCour. This beautiful book is, at its heart, a story about first loves, first heartbreaks, and being true to oneself…even if that means stepping away from expectations.

It’s amazing that a person’s life can change almost instantly, but that’s what happens to both Mark and Kate. Before that fateful night in a San Francisco club, these two kids had barely spoken. They’d passed each other in the hall, but that’s where their interaction ended. How could they have known that they would grow so close in the span of one night?

Kate, who is running away from a potentially momentous encounter with a girl she’s loved from afar, arrives at the club not really knowing what she’s doing there or why she needs to escape what she’s wanted for so long. Mark, for his part, is at the club with Ryan, his best friend and the boy he’s loved for what feels like forever. Mark’s beginning to realize, however, that Ryan may not feel the same.

After a freeing but out-of-character bar-top dance, Mark realizes that he knows the girl across the club, and he makes his way over to Kate. Both of them need a friend in that moment, and that moment becomes something that will carry both of them through the days ahead.

The two new friends will go through an odd but eventful night at some rich guy’s mansion. Through Kate’s splash into the San Francisco art scene. Through Kate’s meeting with Violet, the girl who could be The One. Through Mark’s confrontation with Ryan. Through so much more that will change how they see themselves, their relationships, and their futures.


This book fills a void in many library collections. Gay and lesbian teens don’t see a lot of love stories reflecting their experiences, and You Know Me Well definitely delivers on that front. But this book is so much more than a love story for LGBTQ teens. It’s a love story. Full stop. Now, that love isn’t always romantic, but who says it has to be? Yes, large parts of the book deal with romantic love, but it also focuses on love between friends, old and new, and learning to love oneself, faults and all. That’s huge.

Anyone–gay, straight, however one identifies–will be able to relate to the pain, anguish, confusion, and joy presented in this book. Many readers have experienced unrequited love. Many have felt they didn’t deserve good things that happened to them. Many have had to deal with changing friendships and breaking free of the expectations others have for them.

In short, You Know Me Well, is a book that belongs in all library collections that serve young adults. It’s at once heartbreaking and hopeful, and it is sure to resonate with teen readers who can all-too-easily see themselves in these thoroughly relatable characters and situations.

For more information on You Know Me Well and other books by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, visit Nina LaCour’s website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page, and David Levithan’s website, Twitter, or Facebook page.

I truly hope you find this book as wonderful as I do!

The Inside of Out

I had an unexpected connection with my latest read, The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne.

This story, which will be released on May 31st, takes place in and around Palmetto High School in South Carolina. I actually graduated (almost twenty years ago) from Palmetto High School in South Carolina. Now, the school in this book is located somewhere around Charleston, and my high school is in the Upstate (Anderson County, if you want specifics), roughly 200 miles away, but I still thought this connection was pretty cool. (Yes, I know I’m a dork.)

Anyhoo, The Inside of Out, takes a look at a very special friendship and what one girl will do to stay involved in her best friend’s life when things begin to change.

Daisy and Hannah are best friends. They share almost everything with each other. It comes as little surprise to Daisy, then, when Hannah comes out just before the start of their junior year. Daisy is beyond prepared to be a supportive friend…even though she despises Hannah’s girlfriend, Natalie. (There’s a bit of a history there.)

Even though Hannah shies away from the spotlight, Daisy is determined to be the staunchest ally her friend could ever hope for. She joins the school’s Gay Alliance, and, before she really knows what she’s doing, Daisy is leading a campaign to end the school’s ban on same-sex partners at dances. She actually becomes the face of this campaign–which is gaining international attention–and everyone simply assumes she’s a lesbian. Daisy plays along, but she’s straight. Surely this little white lie couldn’t lead to problems, could it? (I bet you’ve already figured out the answer to that question, haven’t you?)

Daisy’s fight for equality is getting out of hand, and her relationship with Hannah is suffering. Hannah never really wanted any of this, and it’s driving a wedge between the two friends…and between Hannah and Natalie. Daisy’s love life isn’t much better. What could be a connection with a college journalist takes a back seat to Daisy’s quest to create an inclusive homecoming event.

Everything is spiraling out of control, and Daisy doesn’t know if she can hold on. How can she possibly deliver on everything she’s promised? What will all of this mean for her friendship with Hannah? Is there any way for Daisy to untangle the mess she’s made while being true to herself and her best friend? Find out when you read The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne!


So…even though Daisy was grating at times and I found the ending to be a tad unrealistic, I did enjoy this book. I think it’s a good look at what it might be like to be the straight best friend. I know it’s all-too-easy to see people as issues instead of friends. Daisy took things a bit farther than most probably would, but I can understand how she would want to be supportive of her friend no matter what.

I also think The Inside of Out addresses the issue of privilege in an easy-to-understand way. At the end of the book, Daisy is called out on her gung-ho quest for equality. If she fails, she really loses nothing. She can go home, live her life, and nothing major will change. For many of the other students in the Gay Alliance, however, that’s not the case. They face ridicule, hatred, and even violence regularly, and that will still be true whether or not Daisy’s plans fail. This book has helped me to check my own privilege and look at a variety of issues and scenarios through different lenses.

I think The Inside of Out is a great pick for libraries that serve young adults. It is an especially important book for collections looking to build up their book selections for LGBTQIA readers and allies.

If you’d like to learn more about this book and Jenn Marie Thorne, visit the author’s website, and remember to look for The Inside of Out on May 31st!