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The Great American Whatever Hardcover – March 29, 2016
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Tim Federle's Movie Song Playlist for The Great American Whatever
Do you ever wish your life had a soundtrack? You know, like for violins to come in as you're breaking up with somebody, or drums to thump when you're being chased down an alley? (OK, maybe that's just my life.) My lead character in The Great American Whatever is an aspiring filmmaker — his dream is to be the next Spielberg or Tarantino — so I thought it was only fitting that he'd punctuate his own "life soundtrack" with iconic songs from some of his favorite movies. Pop some popcorn and grab your earbuds.
- The "Flying Theme" from E.T. - Probbbbably my #1 most-listened to song for writing inspiration. (I’m biased, because my first novel included E.T. as an entire fangirl subplot, but I promise these horns will send you over the moon.)
- "Mrs. Robinson" from The Graduate - Filmmaker icon Mike Nichols famously rejected Paul Simon’s first two song efforts for the “Graduate” soundtrack, but three’s a charm with the first rock song ever to win a Grammy for Record of the Year.
- "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca - “Nostalgia: the song,” basically. In “The Great American Whatever” Quinn looks back on his young life a lot, wondering how things could have gone differently. “As Time Goes By” is a sweet-sounding, slightly-sad song that Quinn would like, because he’s 17, and being 17 is all about sweetness and sadness.
- "Everybody's Talkin" from Midnight Cowboy - This tune basically plays every time a young Jon “Angelina Jolie’s Dad” Voight enters a new scene in this movie, which makes me wish I had my own theme song for every time I visit the fridge during a writing session.
- "Unchained Melody" from Ghost - Never has wet clay seemed so dirty. Leave it to a movie about a hot dead guy to bring this old Righteous Brothers song roaring back to haunt modern audiences. FYI if you don’t cry you’re a ghost.
- "Goldfinger" from Goldfinger - Long is the legacy of a new James Bond theme song topping the charts, but it’s Shirley Bassey’s camp classic “Goldfinger” that leaves me shaken AND stirred.
- "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie - First of all, Kermit, ARE there “so many songs about rainbows”? Second of all, I forgive you because I’m SOBBING.
- "9 to 5" from 9 to 5 - The only country singer with her own theme park, Dolly Parton knows a thing or two about putting in a days’ work. Blast this one in your corporate cubicle.
- "Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz - The next time you’re full of doubt, just keep in mind that MGM wanted to cut “Over the Rainbow” from the song for fear it would go over the head of little ones, and I don’t mean munchkins.
- "Let the River Run" from Working Girl - My favorite pop/choral mashup by none other than the daughter of Richard L. Simon: one half of Simon & Schuster, who publishes my books! (OK, “Simon’s daughter” is also known as Carly Simon.) I listen to her anthem when I have to face something daunting like cardio or my inbox.
From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Aspiring screenwriter Quinn Roberts is practically Hollywood-bound until a car accident takes the life of his sister, soul mate, and creative partner, Annabeth. In his grief and disorientation, Quinn is forced to reexamine everything he thought he knew about his craft, his family, and his heart's desire. A voice-driven story that is sad, funny, endearing, and ultimately uplifting.
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Top Customer Reviews
To some degree, all teen novels must be voyages of self-discovery. This book is no exception, but Federle’s wonderful writing and Quinn’s wry, endearing personality offer an intense reminder of what, to some degree, we all went through to survive into adulthood.
Quinn is gay, but that fact is more of an annoyance to him than a trauma. “It just seems like such a hassle to come out. I want to just be out.” Problem is, he’s still trying to cope with the sudden, tragic death of his sister Annabeth, which has thrown a monkey wrench into his family’s ability to cope. Fortunately, Tim has Geoff, his best friend forever. Geoff is the catalyst who ignites the sparks that set the ball rolling, as it were. Geoff is a remarkable character, and Quinn knows it as much as we do.
I don’t want to give things away. It’s not a long book, but it’s superbly crafted to wring every possible emotion out of us. I surely thought of Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” as I read this, but of course here the gay kid is the centerpiece, and to me that makes all the difference.
“The Great American Whatever” is unquestionably one of the best YA novels I’ve read. It touched me deeply and made me envious of Federle’s gift as a writer.
Another thing I didn't like was how his being gay felt like an afterthought. I didn't really believe it is what I'm trying to say. And his relationship with Amir just felt incredibly fake. I couldn't even buy them as friends. Amir was nice but I just wasn't feeling them.
But what I did appreciate besides Geoff was how Quinn's grief was handled. I truly felt for him and his loss. He said some really intelligent stuff about his feelings and how he described them.
I'd highly recommend if you are interested in any of the following: YA fiction, Pittsburgh, film making, gay protagonists (where sexuality is not the main source of conflict or angst), coming of age stories, The Perks of Being a Wildflower (it's an easy comparison to make. I'll be honest though, I think I like The Great American Whatever more.)
Quinn Roberts—sometimes called “Win” (a clear signifier of his eventual triumph) by his late sister and his new paramour—aspires to be a successful Hollywood screenwriter. After his childhood crush and former babysitter shared with him the formula for successfully crafting an epic heroic adventure (which nearly replicates Joseph Campbell’s monomyth paradigm), Quinn collaborated with his sister Annabeth on a number of quirky independent films. He also casts himself as the hero of his own life and imagines life itself as a screenplay that he has the power to control. The people with whom he interacts are “scene partners.” He doesn’t engage in conversation; he speaks scripted dialogue. He even renders parts of his first-person narrative as movie scenes complete with dialogue, set descriptions, and stage directions.
As he struggles to cope with his sister’s untimely death (for which he at least partially blames himself), he also tries to help his mother come to terms with the loss (his father abandoned them long ago) as he discovers the limits of just how well he knows his best friend. And he’s falling in love for the first time.
Federle depicts these events with all of the sweet innocence and snide frustration that so deftly characterize adolescence. Although the novel tackles some heavy issues—coming out, the death of a loved one, first love, virginity (and the loss thereof)—it never feels particularly heavy. The novel’s sole weakness might be the blithe spirit with which it regards profound developmental aspects of maturity and sexuality, but its many attributes more than compensate for that.