A Field Guide to the American Teenager book review

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

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Philippe, Ben. The Field Guide to the North American Teenager. Balzer + Bray, 2019. 372p. ISBN: 9780062824110. $18.99. HS ***

Norris Kaplan is skeptical about his move to Austin Texas. As a black French Canadian of Haitian descent all he knows about America is what he has seen on TV and the movies. Being the new kid is never easy so initially Norris spends his time alone, roaming the halls of his high school and cataloging the students in his journal: cheerleaders, jocks, loners, and that Manic Pixie Dream girl he can’t stop thinking about. Norris’s plan: bide his time until he can go back to Canada where he belongs. But you know what they say about plans.

Funny at times, Field Guide is a snarky look at every teen trope American culture has to offer. Norris’s judgmental observations of the teens of Austin are entertaining but skirt a fine line at being mean-spirited, and in the end come back to bite him. Norris’s determination to be misunderstood becomes a little tiresome and his relationship with his father is woefully under explored. However, there are redeeming points in this book including the revelation that saying you are sorry is a first step but how you comport yourself after the sorry is what really matters. And also that there is more to a person than the stereotype you attach to them.

Carla Avitabile, San Mateo Public Library

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