Norris Kaplan is prepared to hate Texas. As a Black French-Canadian, he thinks of himself as the opposite of the Ideal American Teen that he sees in the movies. He’d much rather be back at home in Montreal, instead of moving to Austin, away from all that he’s ever known. To chase away boredom, he starts to record his observations of his peers as though they were animals in the wilderness. But soon stereotypes start morphing into actual people and he finds himself sort-of-friends with a “Beta Cheerleader,” “Chill Monk” and “Maniac Pixie Dream Girl.” Nothing is ever that simple, though.
I love an anti-hero. Someone who may not make the best decisions, or have the right motivations or outlook, but it all just makes you root for them more. Norris is an extremely relatable and funny character; whose flaws only make him more so. He puts out a persona of snarky observations, but over the course of the novel grows as a character to see everyone as human, not just a category. In the end, he's still a kind person and decent human being. His relationships with others (especially his parents) were well developed and thought-out. Perfect for YA fans bored of static characters. However, the pacing was a bit slow, and there was a lot of seemingly unnecessary build-up. I wish that there was more emphasis on the second half of the book instead of the first. Also, I was a bit confused as to why Norris wrote his observations of people through the lens of of wilderness survival, as it was never mentioned that he had a background in this. Maybe it has to do with being the "stereotypical Canadian"? 4.5/5
- @viedelabibliothèque of the Hamilton Public Library Teen Review Board
Black French Canadian Norris Kaplan and his mom are moving to Austin, Texas. The child of Haitian immigrants, he thought he stuck out in Montreal. That was nothing compared to living in Texas! Leaving his best friend, private school, and somewhat absentee father whose new, young wife won’t even let him commit to spending part of the summer together, and now trying to make it at the sprawling Texan high school surrounded by all the stereotypes of a high school from American TV has not been easy. And sometimes Norris’s mouth gets him in trouble. He can’t help that he pretty much just says whatever comes to his cynical, sarcastic mind. His mom makes him promise he’ll try to make things work, but he is convinced that despite his best effort, they will move back home. Well, unless it turns out that maybe people don’t necessarily all fit the stereotypes of bitchy cheerleader, hairy jock, manic pixie dream girl, or rich stoner. With his irreverent attitude and sarcastic wit, I sometimes found myself laughing out loud at Norris’s antics.
Terrific! I gave it 5 *’s because not much I’ve read lately left me enthusiastic, and this did. Norris, a Black French Canandian of Haitian decent who loves hockey, skiing, and the Montreal climate is forced to adapt to life in an American high school in Austin (hot!) when his mother, after a long period without work, finally lands a University professorship there. Relatively few characters play a part in Norris’s drama, but the author only allows a couple of them to remain stereotypic cut-outs, even taking time to add dimension to a few adults, which is far from the norm in teen fiction. Norris’s intriguing Mom is fully formed and even though he resents being dragged to Austin, he understands the necessity, and continues to love and spend time with her. Again, atypical. Norris’s main flaw is to remain disengaged except when he feels the need to wield his sharp and judgmental tongue as a weapon. Luckily, a few of his new peers are drawn to him anyway and are not shy about pointing out his weak points. Philosophical Liam and take-charge Maddie may seem too evolved to be realistic teenagers, but they serve to push Norris forward, and at least they have their own flaws. All of it adds fun and wit to the story. The ‘biological/anthropological’ notes on the ‘species’ and ‘behaviors’ of teens are often lol funny. However, this novel also has real weight. Definitely an impressive debut novel.
--The jacket bio notes make clear that much about this novel is auto-biographical, although Philippe’s adaptation to Austin was evidently a bit later in life.
A cute, funny, contemporary story featuring a rare male main character. (Sad that it's notable, but hey -- it is.) Even better? Norris is Black, Canadian, and feminist AF. He's possibly unique in the canon of modern teen lit, though I hope he turns out to be the first of many instead.
This is a fun, relatable story about meeting new people and fitting in (or not) in new places, as well as chasing the unattainable dreams and finding unexpected delights. There is love, laughter, stereotypes affirmed and shattered. Norris is charming, but so is his growth.
Hand this powerful character-driven novel to jaded readers who want a different perspective on the everyday trials of high school in the United States, or feminist straight boys who are tired of not seeing themselves reflected in realistic teen fiction.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager was not on my radar until it ended up on my doorstep thanks to Harper Collins Canada. This delightfully honest and quirky debut tells the story of a young black French-Canadian, who is forced to transplant to Austin, Texas. Recognizing that Texas doesn't appreciate the important things in life, i.e. hockey, Norris is forced to figure out how he, a Canadian, must fit in with the "American Teenager."
This book is hilarious! I found myself laughing out loud on numerous occasions because Norris is just such a funny character. I loved him so much, and I love how he was constantly being called out on being a bit of a drama queen (mainly by his friends back home). Norris is one of those protagonists who is so intelligent and funny, but lacks confidence in himself to not create drama around him. It's a character trait I found myself weirdly connecting with. Norris is one of those characters who grows so much from start to finish that even with his emo exterior, you're still rooting for him to get his head out of his butt.
I also want to praise the side characters in this story, my favourite being Judith, Norris' mom. She does an absolutely amazing and hilarious thing at the beginning of this story that even now I still think about and laugh at. Eric, Norris' friend from Montreal, also had me in stitches any time he and Norris were having IMs back and forth. I loved Maddie and her honesty, and like Norris, I think grows wonderfully in this story. Even Aarti , who I had a bit of a hard time with throughout the story, grew on me. The cast of characters in this story are funny and flawed, making them feel very believable as teenagers.
I loved my time with The Field Guide to the North American Teenager. It was such a funny, honest little romp that made me laugh and smile during my time reading it. Ben Phillippe writes with such charm and sensitivity, making moments of both darkness and light in this novel feel so raw and truthful. This is a wonderful debut novel that I hope many readers will pick up and enjoy!
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