Rummanah Aasi
 I really enjoyed reading Tim Federle's middle grade novels. His books had warmth, humor, and depth about a boy trying to pursue his dream on Broadway. When I heard the author was going to write his debut YA novel, I had high expectations. While there is still humor and warmth in the book, I still felt like it was missing something.

Description: 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. Of course, that was all before—before Quinn stopped going to school, before his mom started sleeping on the sofa…and before the car accident that changed everything.

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—okay, a hot guy—and falls hard. What follows is an upside-down week in which Quinn begins imagining his future as a screenplay that might actually end happily—if, that is, he can finally step back into the starring role of his own life story.


Review: Quinn has sequestered himself inside his bedroom for six months after his adoring older sister is killed in an automobile accident the day before Christmas break. Quinn is grieving the best way he can by eliminating everything and anything that reminds him of his sister and that horrible day, including his smart phone that holds his sister's last text message to him moments before her accident; a ban on writing screenplays, Quinn's passion and project that he loved collaborating with his sister, and avoiding any conversation that revolves around his sister. It is not until his best friend, Geoff, who persuades Quinn to go to a party that prods Quinn to change things around.
   Despite his tragic circumstances, Quinn is a very likable character and I warmed up to him quickly. His humor is wry, witty, and self depreciating without being malicious. He does genuinely want to get out of his dark slump, but isn't sure how to do so. Quinn's love for the cinema is quite evident from movie trivia to mentally writing emotional scenes with him as the main character as if they are a screenplay in the movie of his life. I found the screenplay style quite clever, allowing us to get the first person point of view, but also zooming out enough to see how the situation plays out with the other characters involved.
  The relationship between Quinn and Geoff is fully fleshed out. Their bromance is sweet, filled with humor, and felt authentic. I just love the anticlimactic moment where Quinn comes out to Geoff as being gay and Quinn being a bit disappointed that Geoff didn't make it a big deal about it. I just wished the relationships with the other characters where also fully realized. While I felt sorry for Quinn about his loss, I didn't get the full emotional impact as I had hoped. My main problem was that I didn't have a good grasp of Quinn's sister through the few moments in which she is remembered and discussed. I wish there were more moments with her. I also wanted to learn more about Quinn's mom who uses emotional eating as her source of comfort. There is also a light romance in the book as Quinn meets his first boyfriend, Amir, a college student at the party. Where there are a few cute moments between the couple, I didn't really feel their chemistry at all.
  The Great American Whatever is a fast read and while it has some serious moments in the story, it is whimsical, wry, and funny, which is a refreshing take on the "grieving novel". I just wished there was a bit more depth to the story. In many ways it reminded me a lot of Becky Albertalli's terrific debut novel, Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda, which is in my opinion the better and stronger novel. Still I look forward to reading what Tim Federle writes next.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some strong language, underage drinking, crude humor, and an allusion to sex and masturbation. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: Simon vs. the Homo Sapien Agenda by Becky Albertalli, Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
5 Responses
  1. Kindlemom Says:

    This sounds like it could be pretty emotional at times. Sad that it didn't have more depth but still, it sounds like a good read.


  2. Aylee Says:

    I'm not familiar with any of Tim Federle's previous work, but I can see why this one would feel like a bit of a letdown for you in comparison. Also in comparison to Simon vs. the Homo sapien agenda (which I also haven't read yet, but I understand is quite excellent). It's encouraging that you would still read and recommend his past/future novels though!


  3. Anne Bennett Says:

    I have this one on my long summer reading list. Now I may shove it further down on the pile. Thanks for the good review.


  4. I usually stay away from grieving novels, but I do like the sound of whimsical, wry and funny! That makes me very curious.


  5. I always enjoy books from a male POV, but I think I'll pass on this one. I like the sound of the bromance, but I know I would want to connect more emotionally with Quinn. It's too bad we don't really get to know Quinn's sister as a character and get to see how important she was to Quinn.


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