The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
By Ben Philippe
Teenaged Black French Canadian Norris Kaplan has to move to Austin Texas after his parents’ divorce. He hates everyone and everything until he kinda doesn’t maybe? Cheerleaders, jocks, romance, the whole high school shebang you see in every teen movie only without the lame-o soundtrack trying to make you sing along. (Or vomit)
Why I picked up this book:
The very first podcast I ever listened to was 88 Cups of Tea. Yin Chang interviewed Ben Philippe about this book and I knew I had to put it on my TBR list for two main reasons:
- I wanted something from the YA world
- I liked the idea of getting a new perspective on a familiar theme. (I’ve only been to Texas for 1 hour in my entire life. I haven’t been an immigrant (yet) and I am not a male black Canadian.
What was disappointing
First, it was too real and I dislike returning to high school. Second, I realized, sadly, that high school cliches are actually very real (at least for me they were). Because of these two points, I found it rather predictable.
Why I kept reading.
Norris is a super strong character whether you like him or not (I did). In fact, all the characters were very real. It felt like I had company staying at my house during the time I was reading this book. Also, there was the guilty pleasure akin to the fun teen flicks you actually do enjoy. We all have a few we enjoy.
(Plus the dedication is the best ever: )
I decided I related to Norris far too much than I should be admitting. Maybe I hid it better in high school than he did, but my thoughts were much like his. #sorrynotsorry. The story is mostly your typical high school drama (i.e. nonsense) which every American who attended high school can relate to whether they like that fact or not. So you’re on familiar grounds during the entire story, but you get to revisit from a new perspective. As I mentioned, the characters are all so solid you keep reading because you get invested in all of their lives pretty quickly. More than this, you get to watch Norris figure things out, or figure out that he has some figuring out to do. This book could only get more real if the pages were doused with that horrible filthy gross metal locker smell of high school hallways and bathrooms.
It’s definitely worth the read. Much like high school it ends rather unceremoniously (depending on your personal view) but with no regrets. Whatever happens to you in high school eventually becomes your past, and it’s how you move on (or hold on) that matters.
Postscript – everyone needs a Liam in their life. (Insert heart emoji here)