REVIEW: The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle

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Back of the book blurb:

Quinn Roberts is a sixteen-year-old smart aleck and Hollywood hopeful whose only worry used to be writing convincing dialogue for the movies he made with his sister Annabeth. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before Annabeth was killed in a car accident.
Enter Geoff, Quinn’s best friend who insists it’s time that Quinn came out—at least from hibernation. One haircut later, Geoff drags Quinn to his first college party, where instead of nursing his pain, he meets a guy—a hot one—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually have a happily-ever-after ending—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.

A message from the cosmos:

Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781481404099

Available for Purchase:

My rating:

“I don’t consider myself to be precious, necessarily, but give me air-conditioning or give me death.”

What a great opener, amirite? Tim Federle’s first YA novel The Great American Whatever literally has the exact voice that I want my own writing to have.

Our protagonist, Quinn Roberts, is still dealing with the aftershocks of his sister’s death six months prior to the start of the novel.

“Our little community has basically written us an ongoing blank check of worried looks and faux concern—which is what happens when your big sister gets killed in a car wreck right outside the school on the day before Christmas break.
Oh. Spoiler alert.”

Quinn’s voice is so sarcastic and comical—it kept me entertained the entire novel, and while some people go overboard with the snide tone, Federle kept it interesting. I saw so much of myself in Quinn especially since I was struggling with my sexuality when I was sixteen, too. Federle deals with Quinn’s sexuality in such a funny and realistic way.

“You know when we were little,” I say, “and I used to put your sister’s ballet tutus on my head, before we knew it was kind of strange for boys to do that?”
            Geoff puts his palm up to my face and stands. “Quinn, is this about you being gay? I literally don’t care at all.”
            Um, what? “Um.” He knows? Wait, Geoff knows. Wait, did something tell him? Wait, I’ve never told anyone.

One of the most endearing and also frustrating things about Quinn is that he’s so wrapped up in his own head he literally does not realize that the world is still spinning. And eventually that catches up to him. His character arc is actually incredible and the ending scene of the novel is golden.

            “Sorry. Just: Have I just been, like, some anonymous kid to potentially fuck around with just so you could get even with Evan?”
            Amir takes my hand and puts it on his lap. He is completely hard. “Does this,” he says, “feel anonymous to you?”

The romance in the novel is a delightful surprise. The jacket flap makes the romance out to be some major playing point in the book, and while it is pretty important, it kind of takes a backseat to everything else that’s going in Quinn’s life and I think that’s even more important—especially to the YA audience. Teens need to learn to make themselves happy rather than believing that finding a boyfriend/girlfriend will bring them all the happiness in the world. I really enjoyed this aspect of The Great American Whatever. It’s not preachy at all and Quinn learns an important lesson. It’s true for queer people as well as heterosexual people. Age truly does matter—at least when you’re a teenager. Amir is in college, and Quinn is in high school. So much in your brain changes between the ages of fifteen and twenty, even eighteen. So to have Quinn learn of power imbalances so early was an extremely pleasant thing to come across in this book.

            “My bad,” Geoff says, resting his elbows on the counter. “I thought all gay dudes were, like, obsessed with foreign films.” He is teasing.
            “Geoff, keep your voice down.” I look around again. “Relax.”
            You relax, you big queen,” he says. I gasp again. He is totally poking fun at me. He is totally the best.

Quinn’s relationship with his best friend, Geoff, is definitely a highlight in this novel. Geoff is so good for Quinn and vice versa. And when Quinn finds out about a certain secret that Geoff had been keeping from him, well, it turns into Quinn realizing that he needs to get his head out of his ass and start paying attention. Their friendship is so fun and hilarious. They have some great banter and it was so fun to read. And I really like how the friendship was more highlighted than the romance.

The Great American Whatever is just absolutely incredible. I applaud Tim Federle for giving LGBTQIA+ readers something to enjoy and hopefully learn from. We need more writers like him—fearless and bold and funny as all hell.

            “And when I look up to smile at that, at my beautiful mom crunching away, I also see, out of the corner of my eye, the pillowcase fall from the urn. It lands quietly on the floor. I leave it there and I pick up the last page, and I finish what I started.”

Happy Reading!
The Cosmic Reader

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