Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Balzer + Bray
Published January 8, 2019
About Field Guide to the North American Teenager
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.
My favorite thing about this book is Norris’s voice. I’m a total sucker for witty banter, and he’s full of quips and side comments. Some tender moments completely sneaked up on me, too. His conversation with his mother about his mistakes had me in tears. I couldn’t help asking myself how many moms have exactly that conversation with their black sons. It shouldn’t be that way.
I felt like Aarti and Madison had really similar voices, so that sometimes I couldn’t tell them apart. I also didn’t totally follow the sharp turn where Norris ends up apologizing to Aarti toward the end. (Sorry, trying not to include spoilers.) They start a conversation where Norris feels pretty righteous in his anger and then suddenly Aarti flips the situation and he feels like he’s the bad guy. Not that he did nothing wrong, but I guess I didn’t feel like the story supported Aarty’s view of what happened.
I loved Norris’s relationships with Liam and Eric. They felt like real friendships, and added a lot of depth to Norris’s character, too, because we got to see things like loyalty and dedication.
On the whole, I enjoyed reading THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER quite a lot. The fast-paced dialogue and banter between characters combined with lots of heart and tough lessons about love and growing up made it a great read. Perfect for fans of THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN YOU IS ME by Lily Anderson.
Recommended for Ages 15 up.
Norris is a black teen from Canada. His mom is from Haiti. Aarti’s parents are Indian immigrants to the US. They share a bond over the pressures of being minority kids who are also the children of immigrants. Norris’s best friend Eric is gay.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used regularly but not super frequently. One instance of a slur used.
Kissing between girl and boy. A couple brief mentions of Norris feeling aroused in response to something. Norris’s best friend makes a comment about whether his boyfriend might intend for them to have sex and wondering if he’s ready for that. No descriptions of anything beyond kissing but Norris carries condoms with him just in case he might possibly need them.
Someone slaps Norris.
Scenes include teens drinking alcohol. Norris makes some mistakes while drunk which land him in some trouble.
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