Ben Philippe‘s debut novel The Field Guide To The North American Teenager is my first 5-star (fiction) read of 2019. I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed this book.
The Field Guide To The North American Teenager introduces us to Norris Kaplan, a black French Canadian who is less than thrilled about is his relocation to Austin, TX. Kaplan, ever the cynic, copes with the sudden loss of his best friend and home by journaling about the people he encounters daily in Austin. Despite constant encouragement from his mother, Norris Kaplan is trying his best to dislike everything around him: the jocks, the loner, the cheerleaders, the heat, even the town’s color of choice. Driven by his intense desire to get back to Canada, Norris finds himself gainfully employed. His job opens the door for the caricatures he has created in his journal to become living, breathing people. Unfortunately, Norris’ life is turned upside down as he is forced to choose between the person he was and the person he didn’t even realize he was becoming.
The Field Guide To The North American Teenager runs the gamut of teenage life. Ben Philippe handles school, work, friends, bullies, parents, sexuality, transition, and self-awareness in a way that feels honest to the teenage experience.
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My Favorite Part
Yep. That about sums up the best thing about this story.
Norris Kaplan is sarcasm personified. He is the wittiest main character I’ve read in a long while. I’m sure you’ve probably heard the phrase “you’re too smart for your own good” a time or two. Kaplan’s personality is the essence of the phrase. His mouth is a source of great entertainment and a large contributor to his troubles.
Watching Norris Kaplan building relationships in Austin is like watching a baby learn to walk. It makes witnessing him destroy those same relationships almost unbearable. I know the world is full of social butterflies, but I prefer to think of myself as a social moth. The Field Guide To The North American Teenager invites us to peek in on Norris’ metamorphosis from a lonely, bitter caterpillar into a not quite beautiful social moth.
All In All
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-done coming of age story. Also, If you fancy a story that’s focused on people of color without being rife with stereotypes then Ben Philippe‘s The Field Guide To The North American Teenager is for you. I cannot find one negative thing to say about this book. Order your copy today and come back and let me know what you think.