So, if you haven't read Geoff Herbach's Stupid Fast, go buy it now. You will totally love Felton Reinstein's face off. And you will want more boy narrators like him: funny, crazy, ordinary, amazing.
If you've already had the pleasure of meeting Felton, then you need to run out and grab the next book he's in, Nothing Special.
If, like me, you've always wondered what goes on in boys' heads, both books are an excellent adventure into that foreign territory. There are a handful of crappy stereotypes for teenaged boy characters in contemporary young adult novels. The boys tend to be sleazy and sex-crazed, or distant and mysterious, or overly-emotional poetry-quoting drips. But Felton Reinstein doesn't fall into any of those categories. He's not just a Boy, a behemoth of tropes. He's a person: specific, particular, individual.
Sometimes when I read YA fiction, I feel like I can see the adult writer too much, like he/she is hiding behind the cardboard cut-out of the protagonist. There will be a pretty turn of phrase, too elegant for the average 16-year-old kid, that makes me instantly picture the adult writer's framed MFA in Creative Writing hanging on the wall. Or I'll read a description of clothing that seems suspiciously similar to the styles of their own adolescence, yet still worn on their present-day characters. Or sometimes it just feels like the author retconned their own teenaged years in too much wish fulfillment. Any of that snaps me out of the story and I usually quit reading.
But with Felton Reinstein at the wheel, I'm never doubting for one minute that he doesn't exist. I'm never pulled out of the story, never jarred by seeing the pantylines of the author, so to speak (or boxer-lines? sorry, Geoff!) If you've ever had questions about what editors/agents mean when they say, "I'm looking for a distinct, unique voice," read Stupid Fast or Nothing Special. It's the experience of having the character consume you. You have no feeling of being a reader or a writer or an anything: you're just completely along for the ride.
It was hard to find an excerpt from Nothing Special to tease you with, because there are a million billion instances where Felton is completely hilariously awesome and they go on at length, without much interruption, which makes it hard to excerpt. Here's one I particularly love, after the jump...
Gus and I didn't get along very well on our trip. It started bad and got worse.
On Friday morning when we were supposed to leave, he was totally late to pick me up. He was supposed to get me right after he finished the freaking paper route. "Oh yeah, about six, man. I'll be there."
Jerri and I waited in the living room, my big bag filled with false football stuff and lying on the floor. And I felt horrible and guilty and sweaty and afraid. It got later and later. I called Gus at 6:40 to see what was the matter. He didn’t answer. Why would he answer? Because he didn’t want to.
Freaking anxiety! There were many, many lies afloat in the Bluffton air, Aleah.
As it got lighter and brighter and later, Jerri sat there in that same gross robe she’d worn all last summer when she was getting more and more depressed until she didn’t get out of bed and didn’t shower and just wore that ugly robe day in and day out, looking like a dead lady wearing a robe. I hate that robe.
I didn’t say anything about her robe.
Jerri didn’t say anything about anything for that whole hour we waited. Together, we stared out the window at the empty main road. Together we sat in silence waiting for the great, late douche Gus.