As I started reading Tim Federle’s middle grade children’s novel called Better Nate than Ever, I knew exactly where Federle was thinking. Forty-five minutes outside of Pittsburgh, longing to get out (much like I did at thirteen), dreaming of a place where he’ll be accepted, and his brother has a track meet in a nearby town, I knew Nate was leaving my hometown.
Here’s a brief plot summary: Nate Foster, with the help of his best friend Libby, runs away on his own to New York City to audition for E.T.: The Musical and pursue his Broadway dreams. It’s a cute story, but it also brings to light some issues with bullying, as well as learning from the past so as to make the future better.
Before I go any further, I want to put a disclaimer: JUST BECAUSE I DO NOT LIKE MY HOMETOWN DOES NOT MEAN THAT IT IS A BAD PLACE. It was a wonderful place to grow up. My hometown gave me opportunities that led to other opportunities that led me to where I am now. However, just like every kid, I went through my periods where I hated the town and couldn’t wait to get out. It’s still not my favorite place in the world. All I’m going to say is that I knew how Nate felt as I read Better Nate than Ever. Keep in mind, Nate is thirteen years old, potentially homosexual (although Federle is pretty clear throughout the story that Nate is headed that direction, that he was always “different”), which causes a lot of problems for him at school. He doesn’t feel accepted there, as many people don’t in small towns when they have different ideals or don’t meet a certain standard. It’s a reality, especially when a certain ideology is predominant.
The only reason I am writing this blog post is to tell everyone to read this book. Nate wants to run away from Pittsburgh, just as I did when I was thirteen. I never wanted to return (as we all know, that was a failure since I’m back). Nate gets out of Jankburg and finds a whole new world in New York City. Nate’s running away from Jankburg is exactly what I wanted to do, and still want to sometimes. But maybe when Nate is older, he can come back to it and realize it’s not so bad.
Here’s a link to the book if you are interested: http://www.amazon.com/Better-Nate-Than-Ever-Federle/dp/1442446897