Reviews for The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

by Ben Philippe

School Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Gr 7 Up-Seventeen-year-old Norris Kaplan has just had his world turned upside-down. When his mother has to relocate to find work in her field, Norris finds his identity as a Black, French-Canadian hockey fan challenged by his new existence in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. While on the surface this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, there are many more layers to the story. Lots of different elements of identity are brought to bear in Norris's narration: his Haitian/immigrant heritage, racial identity, and viewpoint on American high school stereotypes. The protagonist's smart and funny demeanor will engage readers, even when he makes obviously bad decisions. Norris is particularly adept at letting his assumptions about his peers impact his ability to relate to them as individuals, either as friends or romantically. The authorial decision to have the "outsider" be the character influenced by stereotypes rather than the opposite makes for a very compelling reversal that ultimately works. The unresolved ending allows teens to revel in the messiness of high school social blunders and see the value in doing the hard work of making amends. VERDICT A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds.-Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe's debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom's new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid-school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide-style burn book. He's greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris' ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he's hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris' voice detract.Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

For Norris Kaplan, Austin, Texas location of his mother's new professor gig is the antithesis of his true home in Montreal, Canada. Gone are hockey hooligans and routinely spoken French, replaced by relentless heat and the ubiquitous orange of the UT Longhorns. Compounding these differences is the fact that Norris is a black Haitian Canadian kid stuck in cowboy country. He resolves to build a barrier of snark to keep everyone out until he can get back north, where he hopes to reunite with his estranged father. However, Norris doesn't count on falling head over heels for the devilishly mysterious, soulful, and fiery Aarti Puri. Philippe's protagonist is as acerbic as they come, tossing one-liners at breakneck speed. His repartee with other characters, especially his closest friends Liam and Maddie, is hilarious and engaging. These friendships are the most interesting aspect of the book, even over the love story, which has a few twists along the way. Readers looking for a diverse, fun, coming-of-age tale need not look any further than this fantastic debut.--Reinhardt Suarez Copyright 2018 Booklist

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