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July 31, 2012
Read this YA Book If…
Stupid Fast: This One's for the Boys
by Erin Cowles

Felton Reinstein's dad committed suicide when he was a little boy. His hippie mom is having a legitimate nervous breakdown. He's a social reject, and his only friend just left the country for the summer. Sound like a depressing read? Believe it or not, I haven't laughed this hard while reading a book in years. Geoff Herbach's Stupid Fast is really, really funny.

Stupid Fast deals with some heavy issues, but we navigate them through Felton's voice. He's endearingly awkward, honest, funny, and all over the place. Herbach perfectly captures the voice of an insecure ADHD kid who aspires to be a standup comedian. His inner monologues made me remember my own teenaged insecurities, but in a way that I found funny, not depressing.

On the surface, this book chronicles Felton's joke-to-jock transformation. The football teams notices that puberty graced Felton with height and incredible speed. Now Felton has to navigate this new social sphere of people that previously tormented him, but are now recruiting him. He has to learn how to be the center of attention when he's used to a life of being largely ignored, and how to deal with all the rivalries and expectations that come along with it.

Although football does play a big role, this book is really a coming of age story. Felton's family life rapidly falls apart, and he is trying to deal with it. He gets and tries to keep his first girlfriend, a piano prodigy who just moved to his small town from urban Chicago. He gains and loses friends, makes difficult decisions, and really tries to achieve something for the first time in his life.

Through it all, he learns he can't just coast through life. He has to take risks, even if it means he might fail. He learns, albeit late in the game, that although his family failed him, he can't fail them. And he learns that he needs to lean on others when the going gets rough.

I should note that the book is populated with teenage jocks that, well, talk like stereotypical teenage jocks. Skip this one if language makes you uncomfortable.

It's refreshing to read a realistic book written for teenage boys, because publishers usually focus on speculative fiction for this demographic. Librarians and teachers herald Stupid Fast as a miracle worker for teen boys that are reluctant readers, which really says something because it starts slow. But it is worth slogging through the first 50 pages because it is a hilarious, honest, and hopeful book. The sequel came out a few weeks ago, and I can't wait to pick it up.

Read this book if …

Target Audience: Ages 12-18, boys.

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