The Great American Whatever
THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER is celebrated author Tim Federle’s first YA Novel.
Quinn Roberts has always had an idea of what his life should be like --- after all, his passion is screenplay. Although the dialogue and scenes he envisions for himself don’t always play out in real life, Quinn is doing okay. High school (obviously) isn’t the best, but Quinn has his older sister, Annabeth, and his best friend, Geoff, by his side. Quinn, Geoff and Annabeth have always managed to find some time for Quinn’s filmmaking passion, with Geoff acting and Annabeth directing in order to bring Quinn’s writing to life. Quinn and Annabeth even plan to enter one of his screenplays as an application to a film program in L.A., but Quinn never finishes the screenplay because Annabeth tragically dies in a car crash on December 20th.
"Federle’s style might not be for everyone, but those who pick up THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER are in for a bittersweet story with a quirky cast of characters and abundant laughs..."
After Annabeth’s death, Quinn loses interest in screenwriting. In fact, he loses interest in a lot of things. He stops going to school, and his main activities include taking trips to the mini-fridge in his room and checking up on his mom, who doesn’t leave the house much, either --- if, really, at all. But, when Geoff shows up to his house six months after the accident, Quinn sees that it might be time to try and move on, especially when Geoff takes him to a college party, and he meets Amir, a really good-looking college student who may just be interested in Quinn.
THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER follows Quinn through his journey of self-acceptance, coping with loss and growing up. As Quinn learns to deal with Annabeth’s death, he also discovers important things about himself: he might feel responsible for Annabeth’s wreck, he might be gay, and he might still be interested in screenwriting after all.
Tim Federle’s wit throughout THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER is apparent from the first line through to the end. Quinn is a snarky, sarcastic and slightly insecure protagonist --- relatable to any teenagers who don’t yet have a secure hold on their own identity but who are willing to combat that self-doubt with an appreciable sense of humor.
At times Federle’s dialogue and plotline border on far-fetched, but perhaps that’s only to provide vital, lighthearted relief from the realistic grief around which the story centers. However, there are moments in the story that can seem rather improbable because of when or how they occur or that seem unfit for the story in general because of disconnectedness with the plot’s flow or irrelevance to central themes. Conversely, there are instances in which some points are stressed to the point of repetition. Nevertheless, any shortcomings are minimized by Federle’s original voice, which frames even the most mundane happenings with an offbeat charm.
Federle’s style might not be for everyone, but those who pick up THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER are in for a bittersweet story with a quirky cast of characters and abundant laughs, and those who fall for Quinn’s particular brand of humor will be Tim Federle fans indefinitely. Unlike Federle’s debut novel BETTER NATE THAN NEVER, which caters to a younger crowd, THE GREAT AMERICAN WHATEVER is definitely best suited for older teens and true “young adults.”
Reviewed by Laura T., Teen Board Member on March 22, 2016