My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(ARC version. Official release is January 2014.)
This sequel to ‘Better Nate Than Ever’ is more serious—and way more about the inner workings of theatre—than the predecessor. Nate’s no longer on the cusp of puberty, he’s actually experiencing it, and with that go certain ‘grown-up’ notions such as having a secret admirer (you’ll be happy to know he doesn’t stop being completely adorable) and, on more serious notes, things like the intense pressure of a fast-tracked Broadway production that’s a huge friggin’ gamble because it’s being directed (produced?) by a videogame dude (yay, videogames! Yes, I relate way more to the ‘normals’ Nate feels alienated from), a considerbly more serious cancer situation, and also it’s show business! with the mandatory exclamation mark.
Federle has a great sense of when it’s appropriate to slip in the wit and when it’s not, and that’s why I think there’s a bit less this time around—it doesn’t fit as well as in the first, zanier escapade. Of course, Nate still manages to pull a few crazy stunts and there is a borderline-unbelievable climax (in a good way, honestly; I didn’t read it and go ‘no way this would ever happen,’ I was more like ‘oh man that’s so Nate’), but this book is just that much older than the previous one—pubescent rather than prepubescent.
I think part of it, too, is that Nate has had time to get settled in, so now this isn’t a book about novelty, it’s a book about new experiences and growing through them. For the first time in his life, Nate isn’t automatically sidelined (into the toilet) by all the cool theatre-hating girl-crazy kids—so there’s a lot more interaction with people and just navigating the high seas of making connections.
As far as that goes, the people in this book are inconsistent. I don’t mean in the ‘you should check your notes, author,’ way, I mean it in the way that people in reality sometimes do things that don’t follow logically from their previous actions because that’s humans, dude, and it’s great because it keeps anyone from falling into those predefined archetypes. Some people do fit those—where else would the archetypes come from? —but Federle manages to pretty much avoid these things, in part because Nate is so unconventional he hangs out with the other unconventional people.
The theatre trivia continues to expand my totally lacking knowledge in the area. I’m not sure if there will be more books after this one, but I would be happy with it going either way: Federle wrapped things up at the end (admittedly earlier in the timeline of all things Nate than I was expecting), but there’s still room for more, if that’s the plan.
And hey, there are worse places to pick up life lessons than Broadway.