I know it’s a silly point to start with, but I love the cover of this book! I love the colors, I love the illustration, I even love the extremely long title and the perfect placement of it. Most of all, I love that, now that I have read the book, I can tell you exactly who is who on that cover and it fits them to the t. Having said all that, my gushing shall continue about the contents of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager, because this book was so much fun!
When I was 15 years old, I did an exchange semester in the US. Even to this date, with many a different experience abroad, it is one of the most memorable times of my life. I don’t know why, but for a second I thought this book was about a French-Canadian exchange student (that did happen at my US high school, so it’s not that weird of a concept), but no, Norris’ mum plans to move her son to Texas permanently. In hindsight, that makes so much more sense! Because why else would he absolutely hate the idea of being there, since he would have never if he had chosen to go himself. Nevertheless, most things Norris knew about American high schools, he knew from TV shows (just like myself) and he wasn’t surprised to find a lot of these things actually being true, while then realising that there’s always more to people than what you can see at first glance.
I thought this book was a fresh take on usual high school stories. I especially appreciated how the end wasn’t an end at all, while it still left you at a very satisfactory place. Norris, while being very judgmental to the point that it can get annoying sometimes, is a really funny character. I found myself laughing out loud several times. That’s not to say that there aren’t also deep and personal issues discussed. There’s moving to another country, getting raised by one parent and getting neglected by another, the expectation for children of immigrants to succeed, living with mental health issues, being black in America, selflessness and selfishness and to what degree we need to act upon them. Those weren’t even all topics mentioned, but somehow they were all included in effortless ways that made sense for both the story and character. Really, every character has their own story to tell and layers to uncover. I can always appreciate that!
Lastly, the only reason that this isn’t a 5-star-read is that I found myself incredibly frustrated with the romantic storyline. Norris early on crushes on someone he himself calls a “manic pixie dream girl”, which should already tell you that she is not who he is meant to be with. Yet, he keeps pining after her even though she is downright mean to him sometimes and stringing him along in the most obvious ways, even when there is the kindest and sweetest girl right in front of him! I know it’s part of the drama and obviously was also needed for the big blow-up in the last act of the story, but I wouldn’t have minded if none of that ever happened. It was quite nice to just have a mostly happy story trickling along, with hick ups along the way, but just people who dealt with it rather than had a massive drama.
Fazit: 4/5 stars! A fun and quick read about a very teen experience.
Have you read this book? Do you want to? Let’s talk about it.