Friday, December 28, 2012

Book Review: Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach (2012)

Nothing Special is the sequel to Stupid Fast. This second book about Felton Reinstein deals with the aftermath of the physical and emotional changes he undergoes in the first book, and delves into the effects of his behavior on those around him, especially his younger brother Andrew. Felton tells the story in the form of a letter to his girlfriend, Aleah, who has taken a break from their relationship. He writes the letter on a trip to Florida, the purpose of which becomes clearer as the story he tells progresses. What we do know early on is that Andrew has run away, linked up with his dead father’s family, and caused Felton to miss football camp so that he can sort the whole thing out.

Though the story is told in Felton’s voice, it belongs just as much to Andrew. I believe it is meant to be his photo we see on the cover of the book, and “Nothing Special” refers to the way he feels about himself compared to his older, bigger, more athletic brother. Because the story belongs to both boys, the story is structurally pretty sophisticated. I give Geoff Herbach a lot of credit for switching so effortlessly back and forth between Felton’s activities at the time he writes the story and the events in the past that he is writing about. Though we never enter Andrew’s mind, Felton’s secondhand knowledge of his brother’s feelings very effectively helps the reader understand his difficulties and motivations for running away.

I have to admit that for the first few chapters, I wondered whether this sequel was such a good idea. Felton was so hilarious and so much fun to read about in the first book, and when this book wasn’t instantly just as funny, I felt myself losing interest a little bit. Things do pick up, though, and the story turns away from the sarcastic humor a little bit to show us a softer, more emotional side to Felton. Not only do we get to know more about his dead father, but we also meet a cousin who is very much like him, and we see his friendship with Gus go through some challenges and come out that much stronger. Since Felton didn’t spend very much time considering other people’s feelings in the first book, it only makes sense that he would need to repent and think about the emotional side of things a bit more in his second book.

Stupid Fast is one of the best YA novels I have ever read, and for me, it would be impossible for this sequel to live up to it. That said, Nothing Special is a strong follow-up, and readers who love Felton and the people in his life will enjoy finding out how things have turned out so far.

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