cover image Better Nate Than Ever

Better Nate Than Ever

Tim Federle. Simon & Schuster, $16.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-4424-4689-2

Federle’s hilarious and heartwarming debut novel follows 13-year-old musical theater–loving Nate Foster on his meticulously choreographed overnight getaway to New York City to audition for E.T.: The Musical. Catchy chapter titles framed in marquee lights (“This’ll Be Fast: You Might as Well Meet Dad, Too”) and running gags, like Nate’s use of Broadway flops as epithets (“Moose Murders it all to tarnation!”), add to the theatrical atmosphere as Nate breathlessly narrates his backstory and real-time adventures. Federle (who has himself worked on Broadway) combines high-stakes drama with slapstick comedy as Nate travels by Greyhound bus—dying cellphone and dollars in hand—determined to get to the audition, conceal his lack of chaperone, and compete in the cutthroat world of child actors and stage parents. Nate’s desperation to escape his stifling home environment, instant love affair with the city, questions about his sexuality, and relationship with his dysfunctional but sympathetic family add emotional depth. Federle’s supporting characters affirm theater’s “no small roles” adage, and E.T. references abound—like Elliott’s bicycle in the film, this book soars. Ages 9–13. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Feb.)