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The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
Cover of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager
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A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi, and John Green.

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don't bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it's time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris...like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clichés, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi, and John Green.

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don't bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it's time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris...like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

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About the Author-
  • Ben Philippe is a New York–based writer and screenwriter. He has a bachelor of arts from Columbia University and an MFA in fiction and screenwriting from the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas. He teaches screenwriting at Barnard. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is his debut novel. He can be found online at www.benphilippe.com.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2018
    A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe's debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom's new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid-school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide-style burn book. He's greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris' ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he's hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris' voice detract.Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • School Library Journal

    Gr 7 Up-Seventeen-year-old Norris Kaplan has just had his world turned upside-down. When his mother has to relocate to find work in her field, Norris finds his identity as a Black, French-Canadian hockey fan challenged by his new existence in the suburbs of Austin, Texas. While on the surface this is a classic fish-out-of-water tale, there are many more layers to the story. Lots of different elements of identity are brought to bear in Norris's narration: his Haitian/immigrant heritage, racial identity, and viewpoint on American high school stereotypes. The protagonist's smart and funny demeanor will engage readers, even when he makes obviously bad decisions. Norris is particularly adept at letting his assumptions about his peers impact his ability to relate to them as individuals, either as friends or romantically. The authorial decision to have the "outsider" be the character influenced by stereotypes rather than the opposite makes for a very compelling reversal that ultimately works. The unresolved ending allows teens to revel in the messiness of high school social blunders and see the value in doing the hard work of making amends. VERDICT A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds.-Kristin Lee Anderson, Jackson County Library Services, OR

    Copyright 1 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Ibi Zoboi, author of American Street, National Book Award finalist "With a perfect balance of snark, keen observation, and wry humor, Ben Philippe has given us the brilliant Norris Kaplan—by far, the funniest, wittiest, smartest character I've ever read! Norris Kaplan would be the perfect teen host for The Daily Show!"
  • Publishers Weekly "In Philippe's funny debut, 16-year-old black French-Canadian Norris Kaplan must navigate life and love in Austin, Tex., after he and his mother move there... Philippe has a gift for dialogue and touches on a few instances of racism with sensitivity and humor in this crowd-pleaser."
  • Ron Charles, The Washington Post "It's no longer tenable to imagine that the anxieties of a white heterosexual young man expelled from an expensive prep school capture the spirit of our era. Today's snarky young anti-hero instead looks like Norris, the black French Canadian boy in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager."
  • Toronto Star "A refreshing, captivating read, one which will definitely appeal to its teen target audience but will also satisfy older readers, who will appreciate its clarity and emotional acuity."
  • New York Journal of Books
    "Ben Philippe's sparkling dialogue along with prose that occasionally borders on lyrical (although in a completely cool, hip, manly way) is sure to delight readers. Norris' evolution from cynical outsider to caring insider is a journey well-worth following—especially as it's accompanied with laugh out loud moments [and]insightful revelations."
  • School Library Journal (starred review) "A witty debut with whip-smart dialogue that will find much love among fans of authors like John Green and Jason Reynolds."
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