YA literature is often accused of being oversaturated with female voices… the voices of its authors is what people mostly talk about then, but by extension also often the voices of its main (female) protagonists. Anyone who reads more than a handful YA books a year will know that is as much perception as it is an actual verifiable fact (male “voices”, for instance are in no way underappreciated when it comes to “recognition”). For all those people who think there really are no great fresh male voices in YA anymore, I present you Geoff Herbach and Felton Reinstein!
Nothing Special is the second book in a planned series of three (I’m with Stupid is set for publication on 1 May 2013) and is the follow up to the excellent Stupid Fast. Although Felton’s voice is still what grabs the reader from the get go, the formatting is slightly different. Felton is now writing down his story in letters to Aleah, which he time- and datestamps along a trip to… . During that trip Felton is slowly realizing that the things he does and the things that are happening to him are not without consequence. Action. Reaction. And one of those reactions is that his brother Andrew started to feel left out after Felton mega-transformation and sort of runs away to Florida to figure things out for himself and what his family really is all about. In Nothing Special, Felton is also completely alienated from his best friend Gus, and from Aleah, who he thinks ditched him to go off to Germany. Most of all, though, his kid brother starts to act all weird… and what we get is a dual narrative timeline: Felton on his trip, writing letters to Aleah. And Felton talking about what leads up to the actual trip. And by writing everything down Felton does some more growing as he starts to understand how he basically had his head up his ass all last year.
Anyone who read Stupid Fast – and you really should, because, for one, you won’t understand a lot of what’s going on in Nothing Special, but second, it’s just a Stupid Funny Excellent Book – will not need convincing here, but seriously, Felton is one of the most believable male teenage voices since Sherman Alexie’s Junior! It’s great to read a character who is as fresh as any John Green character but who also doesn’t sound like he’s way older than he actually is and just stays in teen character all the time, body odor, dumb decisions and total awkwardness included. He’s one weird dude and part of one weird family and this weirdness adds to the uniqueness of his voice. Felton may also not realize it just yet, but he behaves like he’s the center of the universe (pretty much like any teenager does, right?) and doesn’t see how this affects Andrew and Gus and his other friends. Felton is always completely charming in his utter cluelessness about his family and friends, though, and once he realizes what narcissism really is, he might be ready for the next step… a step which he’ll undoubtedly take in I’m with Stupid. Bonus: Nothing Special has quotable one-liners galore!