The Field Guide To The North American Teenager by Ben Philippe (January 8)
Overview: Quebec to Austin is a major move when you want to be making it; it's life ending when you're being drug along. Or, at least, that's how Norris feels. He's black and French Canadian, so he feels even more out of place. From what he can tell, no one likes hockey, and they don't love his particular brand of defensive sarcasm with a sting. As he takes on American High School, he experiences all the cliches he's familiar with from movies, and he uses the journal, given to him by his guidance councilor, to make notes on how the stereotypes stack up in real life. Even if he can get past his jaded outlook and find a community in Austin, the heat might still kill him. Overall: 4.5
Characters: 5 The character building is super strong. Norris is the most sarcastic person to grace the Earth, which is more times than not interpreted as rude. It's a good mask for his insecurity, even if it doesn't stop him from getting beat up. Even though the character arc, not hating Austin so much and gaining empathy, was predictable, I was happy to watch the ride.
Maddie is both the high school cheerleader and not. She's all the good and none of the bad as she constantly gives things up so that her best friend can shine. After Norris gets a job at the family restaurant, Maddie gives him help snagging the girl he thinks is the girl of his dreams. Maddie is a truly amazing character, and I'd love to read a book just staring her. The same goes for most of the "cliche" characters he meets.
The only character I didn't really like at all was Aarti. Even though she's painted as artistic and varied, at the end of the day, she really just drags Norris through the mud emotionally and then acts like everything is his fault. I really don't like not liking female characters in books, but I honestly just feel like the author really missed the mark here in making her as layered as he thought he did.
Plot: 4 It's the classic storyline. But that's kind of the point. It's a fun ride and dissection of the classic American High School and moving tropes.
Writing: 5 I didn't expect the book to be in limited third person considering it's made out to be a journal, but that didn't end up bothering me. I laughed, I cringed, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. Norris gives good insight into the world as a total outsider, and his shift in opinion as he gets to know his classmates like they know each other is compelling. Also, no spoilers, but props to Philippe for the ending. He gave Maddie a real backbone.