Better Nate than Ever

5 CDs. 5:45 hrs. Recorded Books. 2013. $51.75. ISBN 9781470369385. Playaway. digital download.
Gr 4–6—Nate Foster and his best friend, Libby, are obsessed with musicals. They even curse by using the name of Broadway's biggest flops in vain: "Moose Murders it all to tarnation!" So when they learn of an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical on Broadway, they hatch a plan to get Nate from suburban Pittsburgh to the audition in New York. Armed with his mom's ATM card, his older brother's fake ID, a box of donuts, and $100, Nate embarks on a 48-hour solo adventure into the Big Apple. Debut author and Broadway performer Tim Federle reads with verve, but his voice variations are minimal, which can make it difficult to discern which of the story's characters is speaking. However, the semi-autobiographical nature of the story (S & S, 2013) overcomes this quibble, and the reading is effective because it feels like Nate is taking listeners into his confidence. While the packaging and marketing makes it seem family-friendly, be aware that the story, alongside the lighter issues of friendship, puberty, and perseverance, explores weighty and mature issues of sexuality, alcoholism, bullying, and religion. It's all told in the rarely serious naïve and quip-filled voice of Nate, yet the depth of what is being conveyed is undiminished. Nate's bullies torment him through the use of brutish gay slurs and physical assaults. With his indefatigable spirit, he's able to mostly brush it all aside and pursue his dreams undaunted. Preteens having a hard time finding their niche will relate to Nate's travails; adults will appreciate the humor and wit of the story.—Jennifer Verbrugge, Dakota County Library, Eagan, MN

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