I don’t read Middle Grade books often. Actually, I think I only read one per year. However, when I read a book like Wonder or this one, Better Nate Than Ever, I ask myself why I don’t read MG books more often.
I came across Better Nate Than Ever off a review list for upcoming audiobook releases. I loved the title and found the summary interesting, so I decided to give it a go. I’m so happy I did because Better Nate Than Ever is pure delight. Read by author Tim Federle, this audiobook made my heart feel so full after reading it.
The story follows Nate Foster, a precocious 13-year-old, who dreams of being a big Broadway star. Nate doesn’t hide his love for music or the stage, which in addition to his looks (oh those awkward years, I do not miss them), makes him a target for bullying in his school and community. Luckily, Nate has his best friend, Libby, who loves musicals just as much as he does. Libby is the one that finds out about an audition for a new Broadway show, E.T. the Musical. This could be Nate’s big chance to finally leave the horrendous Jankburg, Pennsylvania to become a star in New York City. Libby helps Nate with a plan to get to New York on his own to audition for the musical. Gathering up the courage and perseverance, Nate heads off to New York to follow his dream.
It’s impossible not to love Nate from the very first chapter. His witty thoughts, honest confessions, loves and fears all ring true. Federle delivers his words with the right vocal mannerisms, making a clever aside wittier and a sad scene more heartbreaking. It really brought me back to being thirteen, which is normally not something I would feel grateful for, but even 11 years later, it made me feel better about myself.
Feelings aside, the adventure Nate embarks on is full of fun twists and surprisingly real moments. Despite showcasing a love for musicals and the dramatics, this book isn’t full of fluff. Sure, there are exaggerated moments, but they’re hilarious. In addition, I love Nate’s outlook on the world. This kid is smart, without being pretentious or unrelatable. He’s thirteen, so there’s a vulnerability that comes from him, but his bravery and optimism shine the brightest.
Nate’s a truly extraordinary kid, and it makes me sad to think that kids like him have to deal with bullying in today’s society. There are many great messages that Better Nate Than Never deliver. Some of the most prevalent are tolerance and open-mindedness, things that everyone—no matter your age—need reminding of often. It also says a lot about family, love, friendship, rejection, acceptance and even religion. But the best one is all about loving and believing in one’s self. Despite how brave and outgoing a kid like Nate can be, he still has a hard time believing in himself, just like most teenagers. That notion weaves its way throughout the whole story, right to that unexpected yet utterly perfect last line.
I can’t recommend Better Nate Than Ever enough. Federle narrates his story with so much zeal and heart, making it feel like I was auditioning for E.T. the Musical right alongside with Nate. I know most TYF readers generally read YA, but I absolute suggest giving this MG title a try. Better Nate Than Ever is too wonderful to miss, especially if you have a love for musicals. (Glee fans, get on this!)
Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle is available wherever books are sold.
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio (May 7, 2013)
Length: Approx. 6 hours
Source: Unabridged Audio Download (Provided by publisher)
Genre: Middle Grade Fiction, Musicals, Friendship, Coming of Age
Completed: May 2013