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Better Nate Than Ever

Review

Better Nate Than Ever

Nate Foster is an insecure 13-year-old boy. His insecurities come from many sources. His brother, Anthony, is a tall, good-looking, award-winning athlete, sure to get an athletic scholarship to a good school. His father is a janitor --- excuse me, a “maintenance engineer” --- who works at a local medical center. His mother owns a struggling flower shop called Flora’s Floras. Between the two of them, his parents barely make enough to make ends meet. And, although they’ve been married for 17 years, they’re not happy together, and both of their kids know it. As if that weren’t enough to make Nate insecure, add in the fact that he weighs as much as James Madison, a big guy in his eighth grade class, but Nate is only four feet, eight inches tall, with wrists “so thin he can’t wear a watch but ankles so fat he has to wear men’s socks.”

"Federlie did an excellent job of bringing Nate’s character to life...The way it ended leaves open the possibility of a sequel (or sequels). I wonder if there will be any more stories about Nate."

But, Nate has a talent, a real talent, something that should make him shine, if only his parents weren’t so wrapped up in his brother’s athletic endeavors to notice. Nate can sing, really sing. He knows the lyrics to an endless list of Broadway hits. His greatest dream is to get a chance to perform on Broadway and escape Jankburg, PA where he lives.

And, with the help of his best friend, Libby, maybe he can do it. When she sees an online mention of upcoming auditions in New York City for a Broadway production of the hit movie, ET, she hatches a plan for Nate to travel to NY to try out for the part of Elliott. Never mind that Nate is only 13, has never been to NY, has never been on a bus by himself, and has never even auditioned before, Libby is sure he can not only make the trip but he can also secure the part.

She comes up with a “fool proof” plan that covers every contingency: Nate has cash to buy a one-way bus ticket to New York, his mom’s ATM card that he “borrowed” so he can use it for cash to buy his ticket home, a water bottle to keep him hydrated, his brothers’ old cell phone so he can keep in touch with Libby, a map of the part of the city where the auditions are to be held, a change of clothes and even a box of Nate’s favorite donuts. They’ve got it all worked out. What could possibly go wrong? As you can imagine, many things.

Federie does a great job of keeping the action moving, adding plot twists and turns and keeping the reader rooting for Nate. But, he also adds other elements to the story to keep things interesting. For instance, Nate is always bullied because most of the kids he comes in contact with think he’s gay. That brings up a whole range of ideas for discussion about alternate lifestyles. But, it also brings the topic of bullying into play. At one point in the story, Nate is beaten up at school so badly that his lips require four stitches. The school officials simply send him off to the hospital for stitches, but no mention is made of any punishment or consequences for the person(s) responsible for the beating. It was almost as if the author thought that type of behavior was normal and acceptable. I think since the author didn’t hesitate to promote the gay lifestyle, he could have, and probably should have, used the storyline by providing positive ways for children to deal with bullies in their lives.

Having said all that, I think Federlie did an excellent job of bringing Nate’s character to life. I enjoyed the story. The way it ended leaves open the possibility of a sequel (or sequels). I wonder if there will be any more stories about Nate.

Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on February 25, 2013

Better Nate Than Ever
by Tim Federle

  • Publication Date: September 18, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Humor
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
  • ISBN-10: 1534429131
  • ISBN-13: 9781534429130