Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle
Nate Foster, who at “four foot eight” looks much younger that his almost-14 years, makes up for his diminutive height with outsized dreams – and the grandest of plans to make them come true. While his parents are away for a romantic weekend (Dad’s trying to make up for cheating on Mom, oh my), Nate’s about to make his solo escape thanks to his very best friend Libby as enabling accomplice: he’s “stealing [his] older brother’s fake ID … and strategizing high-protein snacks for an overnight voyage to the single most dangerous city on earth.”
Translation? He’s leaving Jankburg, Pennsylvania on a Greyhound Bus headed to NYC. Why? Because E.T.: The Broadway Musical is having an open casting call. Never mind that Nate’s collaborations with Libby sum up the training he’s had thus far making his résumé perhaps a bit lacking for the Great White Way, but a boy’s gotta try what a boy’s gotta try. The Big Apple might be the ‘single most dangerous city on earth,’ but being stuck in Jankburg means regular doses of homophobic name-calling, toilet-shoving, and all-around vicious bullying. Just walking the Manhattan streets offers an alternative, eye-opening education.
In order to take the spotlight, Nate needs to get through the actual audition … quite the challenge since he’s underage with an unbelievable fake ID, no adult in sight, not to mention an application filled with questions he can’t answer. Fueled by pure determination – and buoyed by remote texts, free chips, a monologue about bad bellies, Shirley Temples, and a missing aunt – Nate Foster gives the performance of a lifetime.
Tim Federle clearly writes (and narrates, yippee!) what he knows in his debut novel: YES, Federle himself danced on Broadway (by way of Pennsylvania) in the original casts of The Little Mermaid and Gypsy, and then went on to work with child stars in Billy Elliot. If E.T. ever heads to Broadway for real, the producers will know who to tap for casting advice and choreographing knee-crawling numbers. All that authorly experience ensures Nate is a genuine, immediate star on the page – and, even more importantly, an inspiring survivor in the less-than-welcoming halls of his small-town junior high school. After multiple award nods (including the 2014 SCBWI Golden Kite for Fiction and a 2014 Lambda Literary Award nomination), Nate is ready for his encore: Five, Six, Seven, Nate! hit shelves earlier this year. Better get our tickets sooner than later!
Readers: Middle Grade