Book Review: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

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Book Review: The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Mrs. Grieve reads a shocking moment in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Mrs. Grieve reads a shocking moment in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Amanda Wampler

Mrs. Grieve reads a shocking moment in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Amanda Wampler

Amanda Wampler

Mrs. Grieve reads a shocking moment in The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

Amanda Wampler, Staff Reporter

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Navigating the world of feel-good young adult novels can be a challenge. After reading countless novels that all encompass a cheesy romance, a devastating fallout, and then an inevitable makeup, The Field Guide to the North American Teenager was like a breath of fresh air. With dynamic characters, amusing dialogue, and relatable themes, author Ben Philippe was able to achieve a striking and entertaining debut novel.

When I heard about this book, I was unsure about how the idea would play out. Would it be cheesy or feel like it tries too hard? My fears, however, were put to rest within the first few chapters. Each chapter starts with a type of person, an idea, or something commonly done in America and the protagonist, Norris Kaplan, dissects it. The book follows Norris, a black French-Canadian junior in high school, and his life after he moves from his home in Canada to Texas. Growing up, Norris would only see American teenage life through television shows and movies, so his expectations for this new place were filled with stereotypes. In an interview with Ben Philippe conducted by NPR, Philippe said that he is able to connect with his character Norris because he came from a similar house. He understands the feelings of only understanding American culture from a television show. Norris immediately begins to categorize all of the people around him into groups and he decided that he would be in the “loner” group. As time passes, Norris realizes that maybe he is not as much of an outsider as he originally believed.

My love for this book came from the keen interpretation of high school. At first glance, it may not be easy to see, but as I read the novel, I began to connect with different characters. Norris had his own issues of parental divorce and just being depressed in his new home, but what he failed to notice is that everyone else has issues as well. One of his friends struggled with depression and self-harm, another struggled with the absence of feeling in her own world. Norris initially stereotyped Texas and his friends as one thing, but as the story progressed, his view broadened. Each character developed more backstory and Norris became a little more okay with living in Texas. Junior Luna Riley said, “I kept seeing this book all over social media, and it seemed super popular so I wanted to read it. So far, the book is super funny and I love the characters personalities and how they interact. I can’t wait to finish it and see what happens.” This novel, though written by someone long out of high school, perfectly captures what it feels like to be in high school. Though Norris may have a self-centered mindset and a sarcastic defense mechanism, his character is relatable and he gives someone who is from America, like me, a different perspective on what it is like to live here.

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager was a pleasantly surprising book and it is something I would recommend to all high school students.