Comments for Better Nate Than Ever
Better Nate Than Ever: 10/20/14
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is 42nd street reimagined for the younger set. Nate Foster lives Jankburg, PA, which might as well be the middle the of nowhere. Nate and his friend Libby, adore all things Broadway. They know Broadway's history and trivia in the same way that my father knows American film history from the 1930s-1950s. When there's a casting call for an upcoming E.T. the Musical (can you imagine such a monster?), Libby helps Nate run away from home long enough to try out.
Nate isn't the typical stage brat. He hasn't been taking lessons all his life. He's not especially physically fit. He's actually the age of the lead character (and they tend to cast younger). He's an overweight, mensch of teen who is gaga for Broadway and he hopes he can win a spot in the production on his enthusiasm alone.
Following Nate through his grueling adventures in Manhattan helped me remember how much I adore the American musical. As a kid, my parents took me and my brother to local productions of the classics on a semi-regular basis. As an adult, I haven't kept up. Part of that is a lack of disposable income and a lack of time. But there's still the old movie versions, and those I've been watching. Turns out my son is rather fond of 42nd Street too.
The trip to New York is also a bit of an awakening to Nate. Although Manhattan is a huge culture shock, it's also a welcoming place. It's also a place where Nate begins to realize he might be gay. But as Nate reminds everyone in first chapter or so of the book, his sexuality isn't up for discussion and is basically his business alone.
Reading this book as a parent of a boy about Nate's age, I love the message of letting children (specially newly minted teens) take risks. Yes, Nate's parents don't know at first what he's doing. And yes, he has consequences for his actions, but they do warm to his plan as he's clearly got potential and he's clearly passionate about his future in musical theater.