HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Better Nate Than Ever
Author: Tim Federle
Cover Illustrator: Scott M. Fischer
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, reprinted 2014)
ISBN-13: 978-1442446892 Hardcover
ISBN-10: 1442446897 Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-1442446915 Paperback
ISBN-10: 1442446919 Paperback
Related website(s): http://www.scholastic.com (publisher
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Said to be for ages 10-14, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 16 if at all
Rating: * 1 star
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Federle, Tim. Better Nate Than Ever (Published in 2013 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York City, NY 10020; republished in 2015 by Scholastic Inc., 557 Broadway, New York City, NY 10012). Nathan Evan Foster, thirteen and usually called Nate, lives in the small town of Jankburg, PA, fifty miles from Pittsburgh, with his dad, a hospital janitor who recently had an affair, his mother, an alcoholic who runs a flower shop, and his sixteen year old brother Anthony who is an all-around jock. Nate is a late bloomer, is anything but athletic, likes to sing, and wants to be in the theater. When he and his friend Libby Jones hear that there will be auditions for E.T.: The Musical in New York City, they hatch a plan for Nate to sneak off and hop a bus to New York over the weekend for the tryouts.
Years ago Nate’s Aunt Heidi, his mother’s sister, ran off to New York to be an actress and was never heard from again. Facing bossy receptionists, cutthroat fellow performers, and wacky casting directors, does Nate get the part? Or will his parents literally kill him when they find out what he’s done? And who surprisingly shows up at his audition? I began to wonder about this book when on the very first page Nate steals Anthony’s fake ID. The fact is that Nate does a lot of stealing, lying, and “other compromisin’ on the road to his horizon.” References to drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes occur. As to language, in addition to common euphemisms, there are near-vulgar childish slang words for body parts and functions. Nate and everybody else constantly use the names of God (Oh God, my God, good God, etc.) and Jesus Christ (even “sweet Lord almighty”) as exclamations. Mention is made of the “S-word,” and in one conversation it is printed as “s__t.” Nate calls a boy an “a-hole” but notes “I really say it, the whole word”—even right in front of his mother. Also, the author seems to poke fun at conservative Christians.
Furthermore, the book is filled with sexuality. Anthony teases Nate by calling him “homo,” and kids at school refer to him as a “fag” or “the Faggot of the Opera.” A song he records is said to sound like a “lesbian rock ballad.” Libby says that her favorite step uncle is “gayer than a Christmas flag in August.” When in New York, Nate passes a “gay bar” where the door opens and he sees two guys dancing together and kissing each other. And when he asks Heidi’s roommate, Freckles, if he likes his aunt, Freckles replies that he dates other men. Nate blurts out, “That’s cool.” He learns that a boy at school got busted with a male porno magazine in his locker, and the rumor is that he “has a secret gay crush” on another boy. Along the way, Nate makes several comments, like “I’m thirteen…–how would I know who I want to hook up with?”, and that he “wasn’t even—and am not even, now—sure what I was. A fag or a straight guy, or what.” There might have been a funny story here with a great example of striving to meet one’s goal, but it basically turns out to be pro-homosexual propaganda. No wonder it won a Lambda award for LGBT youth. School Library Journal calls it “a remarkably lighthearted and humorous touch totally appropriate for young audiences,” and Booklist says that it has “an age-appropriate manner throughout,” but I have to agree with those who wrote that this book is not appropriate for children, especially for the age recommended. One person noted that the entire book reads like an inside joke for young adult men trying to make it on Broadway. Another wrote, “I think the only reason there are so many 5-star reviews is that the book is pro-homosexual and no one wants to be seen as intolerant.” And one other said, “If you do not want your child reading stories that affirm this lifestyle, then skip this book.” There are two sequels, Five, Six, Seven, Nate! and Nate Expectations.