Tremendous Things

Random/Wendy Lamb. May 2021. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781524768386.
Gr 7 Up–Wilbur Nuñez-Knopf became the subject of viral ridicule in seventh grade when a personal letter detailing his hopes for the future was photographed and shared. The sealed letter, intended for a time capsule, reveals embarrassing information about his “spontaneous erections.” Wilbur was referred to by insensitive nicknames for the remainder of middle school and his self-confidence suffers greatly at the hands of bully Tyler Kertz. Two years later, when the school band hosts an exchange program with students from France, Wilbur falls for the girl assigned to stay with him, Charlie, and is broken-hearted when he discovers her and Tyler making out. Just as Wilbur prepares to cancel his upcoming visit to Paris, his friend Alex and Alex’s boyfriend, Fabrizio, stage an intervention with Wilbur’s elderly neighbor, Sal. Encouraging Wilbur to work out, update his wardrobe, and refrain from desperate over-texting, Wilbur emerges a more confident teen, ready to leave an impression on Charlie. Readers will find themselves immersed in each scenario that unfolds. The focus on Wilbur’s penis is over-the-top and his gaze toward Charlie comes across at times as objectifying, though the book overall highlights the power of a peer support network in building self-esteem and one’s willingness to reach out for new opportunities. The discomfort readers may experience as they learn of the initiating event parallels the awkwardness of adolescence and the unexpected experiences of middle school. Wilbur is described as having white skin and one of his mothers is coded as Argentinian. Alex is Iranian and Sal is Jewish.
VERDICT Nielsen presents a realistic teen experience with raw emotions. A heartwarming addition for collections looking for titles with fewer than 200 pages.

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