book review, young adult

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe (Review)

TitleThe Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Author: Ben Philippe
Type: Fiction
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins)
Published: January 8, 2019

Physical copies of this book were kindly provided by Indigo Books & Music Inc., in exchange for an honest review.

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris. Be it loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

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This book ended up being so different from what I had expected! Though I shouldn’t be too surprised, since this is Philippe’s debut novel, so he’s definitely a new-to-me author. The main character of this book, Norris, was likeable for me from the start, and there was a lot of snarky humour sprinkled throughout this book, which was great. I think that I liked the humour the most, if I had to pick a top favourite thing! It was also quite interesting to read about Texas from the perspective of a fellow Canadian, even if he is from a different part of Canada than me. I can definitely understand how Norris must have felt when he moved from Montreal, Quebec to Austin, Texas (especially as a teen).

I also loved how this book pointed out that nothing is really black and white, even when it comes to high school students, cliques, teachers, etc. (I won’t say any more about that, though, because I might spoil something.) Another thing that I really liked about The Field Guide to the North American Teenager was how the characters were portrayed. The story is told from Norris’ perspective, so we learn about Norris (there was definitely some self-discovery involved), as well as the other characters, at the same pace as he is. The way that this book is written made me feel as if I was experiencing a lot of things with Norris, or at the same time as Norris, which in turn made me feel very invested in the characters and what was going to happen. I definitely enjoyed this one and will for sure be keeping an eye on this author and what he’ll publish next!

 

Ben Philippe was born in Haiti, raised in Montreal, QC, Canada, and now resides in New York. He is a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers and holds a BA in Sociology from Columbia University. He won the 2013 Tennessee Williams Fiction Contest and his writing has appeared in Observer, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, and others. He still doesn’t have a valid driver’s license.

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The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
was the Indigo Teen Staff Pick of the Month for January!

THANK YOU FOR READING MY REVIEW! HAVE YOU READ THIS BOOK? WHAT DID YOU THINK? AND IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT YET, DO YOU WANT TO, OR NOT? HOW COME? LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS!

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