Review: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe!


Title: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Author: Ben Philippe
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 372 Pages
Published January 2019


Summary: Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas. Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs. Yet, against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris. Be it loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans. But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher, and I'm so glad I did, because this turned out to be one of the funniest books I've read in a long time. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is equal parts sarcastic, hilarious, and surprising -- and Ben Philippe's narrative voice is one of the best I've read in a long time. If this book isn't on your TBR already, then trust me, you're going to want to put it there. I also had the chance to meet Ben at fellow debut Katy Loutzenhiser's launch party at McNally Jackson (she wrote If You're Out There!), and he was just as hysterical in person. It was seriously such an honor to be able to read and review this book, because now I get to hype up a super awesome debut that you all definitely need to read! Now, without any further ado, let's get into the review!

As the summary explains, Norris finds himself making a tough move from Canada all the way to sweltering Austin, Texas. And let me tell you, he is NOT happy about it. Which is why, when given a notebook by his new school secretary, he sets out to create a field guide where he absentmindedly logs all the different types of things he comes across in this new North American atmosphere. But the thing about Norris is how sarcastic he can be -- which leads to some pretty scathing observations in his journal. He's destined to hate Austin and just wants to go back to Canada, but before long he starts to find some people and things that make him not hate the place entirely, and it forces him to rethink his previous assumptions about the people there. Or....does it?

I absolutely, positively LOVED this book, you guys. I genuinely cannot remember the last time I laughed at a book so loudly. Even from the dedication page, this book had me cracking up from the very beginning. I actually read this book slower than I usually do (taking almost a week to finish it!) solely because Norris was so hilarious that I wanted to draw out my time with the story and not have it end so quickly. I've read some funny books here and there, but this is the first time in a long time that a book made me full-on belly laugh in the middle of the physical therapist's office (or other embarrassing, super quiet but also super public places). And when I met Ben at Katy Loutzenhiser's launch party, he was just as funny in person. While he makes a point of saying that he and Norris wouldn't get along, it's clear that the sense of humor transfers from him onto the page, and it made for such a delightful read. I seriously cannot hype this book up enough.

My favorite character in this book was definitely Maddie. I liked how sweet and dependable she was, not being the bitchy cheerleader that Norris automatically assumed she'd be. It's clear how much she loved her family and her friends, and it was also super nice of her to go out of her way to help Norris with his girl problems, and they even had a fun work relationship that was just really such a great thing to read on the page. The fact that she matched Norris's sarcasm quip-for-quip was super hilarious, too -- it adds another layer of sarcastic comedy to the book.

(Spoilers in this paragraph, skip to the next one to avoid them!) Something else that I also really appreciated about this book was the way the ending wasn't picture-perfect and wrapped up in a pretty bow. At first, I was kind of upset that Norris and Maddie didn't end up together and she didn't immediately take him back in the picture-perfect fashion that movies made it look like. But then, after dwelling for a little bit (realistically like thirty seconds, because this book was too good for me to take any breaks longer than that), I realized that I couldn't think of a more perfect ending. Because real life is messy, and you don't go from immediately screwing over a person to becoming boyfriend and girlfriend again. That takes time, and the rebuilding of trust, and slowly navigating your way back to each other. I think Ben Philippe picked the perfect ending for this book, making it realistic while also still resoundingly hopeful. 

Overall, I absolutely adored The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, and I will definitely be recommending it to everyone I know. This book was filled with so many laugh-out-loud moments, shocking plot twists, and different threads of friendship, all woven together into one hilarious story. If you're looking for another read that will hook you from the start and keep you laughing until the very last page, then look no further than this book. Ben Philippe is an excellent writer and a super sweet (and hilarious!) guy to meet, and it's safe to say that I'll be first in line to read his new books in the future!



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