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Recent book: "Better Nate Than Ever"

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I just read a review of a sequel to this book, and went online to check out the original. It's a terrific idea: a 13-year-old pudgy, awkward, sensitive kid from Pittsburgh who is absolutely consumed by Broadway musicals is absolutely determined to somehow hitch a ride to NY to audition in a play that he thinks he's right for, despite the fact that he's only done Jr. High plays up until this point. It's absolutely hilarious, very heartfelt, and poignant, and the kid is as real as any character I've seen, particularly in a story like this.

The book is titled Better Nate Than Never, and while there are gay overtones -- the kid's athletic 16-year-old older brother constantly taunts him about it -- officially, Nate says, "I am undecided. I am a freshman at the College of Sexuality and I have undecided my major, and frankly don't want to declare anything other than, 'hey jerks, I'm thirteen, leave me alone. Macaroni and cheese is still my favorite food -- how would I know who I want to hook up with?'"

The author, Broadway choreographer Tim Federle, is also from Pittsburgh and admits there are elements of his character that resemble him. (Federle has choreographed shows like Billy Elliot, and admits he got the idea to write the book after seeing a kid get rejected for that role.) It's a very gentle, whimsical tale intended for younger readers -- and trust me, whimsical is very hard to do -- but you really get inside the head of this kid and understand him thoroughly. It's also very, very funny and I've enjoyed very much of what I've read of it so far. This is a very gentle, light-hearted story, so don't expect anything sexual, though hints are dropped here and there.

Not to spoil the ending, but the sequel -- which just got a rave review in Entertainment Weekly and is Amazon's pick this month in for YA books -- continues the story with Five, Six, Seven, Nate, the story of what happens when he gets a part in a big Broadway show and how he deals with it. Really well-told, and the guy clearly knows what goes on in the Great White Way backwards, forwards, and sideways. I look on it as "Smash from the viewpoint of a confused 13-year-old kid."

The link for the first book is here:


and you can read the excerpts for free. I'm thrilled that somebody's even writing books for kids this young who are maybe questioning who they are -- whether they're straight, gay, bisexual, "undecided," or just Broadway fans -- especially when the writing is this sparkling and engaging. Check it out.

Here's the author and his book:


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Great review, Pec. Got it on my 'must read' list, especially after the Huffington Post described the book as 'Judy Blume as seen through a Stephen Sondheim lens.' It was named a New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of 2013, a Slate.com Favorite Book of the Year, an Amazon Best Book of 2013, and a Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2013.

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