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Better Nate Than Ever

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Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune? With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published February 5, 2013

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About the author

Tim Federle

20 books694 followers
Tim Federle is the showrunner and executive producer of "High School Musical: the Musical: the Series," which he created for Disney+. His novels include the New York Times Notable Book "Better Nate Than Ever" and its Lambda Literature Award–winning sequel—which Lin-Manuel Miranda called “a wonderful evocation of what it’s like to be a theater kid” (New York Times). A film adaptation of Nate, written and directed by Federle, premiered on Disney+ on April 1, 2022. The film stars Aria Brooks, Joshua Bassett, Lisa Kudrow, and Rueby Wood as Nate.

Tim’s hit series of cocktail recipe books, including "Tequila Mockingbird," have sold over half a million copies worldwide. He cowrote the Broadway musical adaptation of "Tuck Everlasting," and won the Humanitas Prize for cowriting the Golden Globe and Academy Award–nominated Best Animated Feature "Ferdinand," starring John Cena and Kate McKinnon.

A former Broadway dancer, Tim was born in San Francisco, grew up in Pittsburgh, and now divides his time between Los Angeles and the internet.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,256 reviews
50 reviews3 followers
February 26, 2013
I know this may sound like a bit of an over exaggeration, but I think Better Nate Than Ever may be one of my favorite books I’ve read.

Just like the protagonist, Nate, this book just oozes a sort of charm and hilarious innocence that is impossible not to love. Readers of all ages (I’m 24 and loved it) will find something that they can relate to in this hilarious tale of innocence, dreams, and family.

There’s just something about Nate that readers of all ages and sexes will love. He’s innocent, funny, kind but not perfect, and through his eyes you’ll see New York, not as dirty expensive place people sometimes grumble about, but as the most magical place on earth. Nate is awed at the simplest things, from an enormous Applebee’s, to $1 pizza being sold on the street, to the Duane Reeds and Cupcake shops on every corner. He’ll simultaneously make you crack up with the knowledge of what’s actually going on around him, and make you feel appreciative and lucky for the things you do have.

Of course, the author, Tim Federle, takes it one step further. He makes this into a book about love and lost, family and forgiveness, and about discovering the best version of yourself. But he does all of this without feeling corny or hokey. The story just flows, sweeping readers along, until they can’t think of anything else except if Nate will get caught by his parents, or make it to the next level of the audition. I don’t know exactly how Federle does it, but he makes all of these lessons, all the hilarity, all of the heart fit into one 288 page book, that readers wont be able to put down.

I know this all might sound like a bit much, but I’m being honest when I say this book was amazing. I fully plan to follow whatever Federle writes next, because if it has even half the heart that Better Nate Than Ever has, it’ll be one heck of a book. Perfect for all ages.

Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
703 reviews3,277 followers
August 22, 2017
Nate Foster dreams of starring in a Broadway show. When auditions are held in New York for E.T.: The Musical, Nate sees his chance to break free of his small town and launch a career in the big city. With the help of his best friend Libby, he embarks on a daring escape to New York, where one simple audition unravels into a night of unanticipated adventure.

There's a delightful sprinkling of humor in this book, emphasized by Nate's love of Broadway flops and his honesty about being an awkward, bullied teenager:

"There's nothing to be scared of, Nate. You're small and scrappy and can get out of any situation the world throws at you."
Just this past week, I'd been stuffed into a locker by a seventh-grade nose picker who is shorter than I am.

Nate's journey has as much to do with starring in a Broadway play as it has to do with him figuring out who he wants to be in life:

My sexuality, by the way, is off-topic and unrelated. I am undecided. I am a freshman at the College of Sexuality and I have undecided my major, and frankly, don't want to declare anything other than "Hey jerks, I'm thirteen, leave me alone. Macaroni and cheese is still my favorite food - how would I know who I want to hook up with?

It's Nate's narrative voice that makes this book a joy to read. He's plucky and sweet with an endearing sense of humor:

"Come on!" she shouts, and pulls me into a cab, announcing, "Eight Avenue at Thirty-sixth." Which I love, which sounds like a real spy-thing to say. I would've gotten in and said, "Take me to the place where children's dreams come true if they aren't eliminated for being too pear shaped and not being able to juggle.

Though the fundamental messages are important and the protagonist is adorable, very little transpires over the course of this book and, after almost three hundred pages, an abrupt ending leaves the reader feeling shortchanged. Perhaps the author intended to make a statement to readers about what's truly important, but it felt like the story ended without proper closure.

Nonetheless, Better Nate Than Ever is a charming read about family, theater, and learning to be the best version of yourself.

All of this, all of this adventure and novelty, it would be nothing without somebody to share it with.
Profile Image for Kerry.
403 reviews1 follower
April 30, 2014
First of all, I'm an adult, so the book wasn't written for me. I read a review of this book in Entertainment Weekly and learned the author used to dance in Broadway shows. I thought it would be wonderful to read a book written by someone with such an unusual viewpoint for a middle grade reader.

The book is funny, Nate's voice is authentic.

My low rate is for two reasons. One, the book used the word "f-g" multiple times.

When I was growing up, this unfortunate word was used constantly on playgrounds and school buses and by my peers. I work in a grade school as a school librarian, I've not heard kids use that word in school, but I work with kids 4th grade and under primarily. They read books exactly like this one, so I felt at first like this book would likely introduce the word to kids and that made me sad.

For my children, I won't recommend this book or pass it on to a friend because kids today are growing up in world where they can say something online and it changes their day, week, month, life. When we were kids and we were ignorant and childish or hateful, or had regrettable behavior, it did not haunt us.

I understand that Nate is from a small PA town and he's repeating his experience of intolerance. However in the comic plot of the book, the thin development of Nate, I don't think the bullying words bring a dimension to Nate. I think it is like a land mine in otherwise harmless story. Lots of children love to read above their maturity level and I can see a 3rd grader picking up this book and thinking it's a rebranded (with different cover art) Nate the Great book, and then reading f-g, f-g, f-g and thinking that's an okay word because it was in one of his books. It's just not cool.

Besides the language, the book actually lost me because I expected some resolution about his tryout for ET. Instead, the book endlessly bogs on this weird time warpy stretch where he walks six blocks in NYC, he finds the audition, he runs in and out stores buying outfits, he has money, he spends money, he eats doughnuts, he lies about his name, age, money...it didn't follow. I mean, how can you leave an audition, walk out of a building, go to Old Navy, find an outfit, try it on, pay for it and then come back and the first thing you hear is people calling your name? And you did it all in 20 minutes? And Nate's plastic bag of cash that's paying for pizza ($2.50 for two slices and a soda? What year is this?) and cabs? And clothing? Aunt Heidi calls his sideways cap and oversized shirt "thug" like, but I guess that's okay? Yuck.

I know a child won't notice that, but a child will think it's boring all the fretting about an outfit and talks with Aunt Heidi and way too much focus on home and not very much about Broadway or dancing or theater.

I ended up skimming the last four chapters because it was not good. I wanted to get to a point. Did he get on the show?

I'm not even giving this book to anyone I know, I'm giving it to Goodwill. Sorry Mr. Federle, I wanted to like your book.
Profile Image for Aeicha .
832 reviews101 followers
February 5, 2013
Better Nate Than Ever was such a complete joy to read (devour, really)! This book sparkles and shines as bright as the lights of Broadway, and is as heartwarming as it is hilarious. Debut author Tim Federle has delivered a smash hit and has done so with addicting charm and flair.

In Better Nate Than Ever we follow Nate Foster as he sets out on a big journey to make his dreams come true. Nate dreams of starring in a Broadway show and with the ingenious help of his BFF Libby, he concocts an exciting plan. When his parents go on a weekend trip and leave Nate in the care of his teenage brother, Nate and Libby put their plan in motion and Nate finds himself on an overnight bus trip to NYC and to an audition for E.T.: The Musical. Nate is dazzled by the city, but soon finds that navigating the streets (and people) of the big city isn't as easy as he hoped. And auditioning for a Broadway show is nothing like Nate imagined. But with a little help from a long lost relative and Libby back home, and a lot of courage and heart, Nate has one heck of an adventure and may just see his dreams come home.

Better Nate Than Ever is wildly entertaining, laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly poignant, and dazzling all over. I simply fell in love with Federle's story, characters, and voice.

Federle brings Nate's story to life with a pitch-perfect and captivating middle-grade voice. Federle captures the often confusing, painful, and cringe-worthy middle-grade years in a way that young readers will relate to and older readers will appreciate. Federle is a fantastic storyteller with buckets of writing talent. Nate's world isn't a perfect one, in fact, it's pretty far from perfect. His love of singing and Broadway musicals hasn't made him popular among his peers and often leads to much teasing by classmates and his own brother, his home-life is rocky with parents that have an unstable marriage and don't relate well to Nate, and Nate feels like an outcast in his school, home, and small town...all of which Federle explores with such unabashed honesty, humor, and heart, and Federle holds nothing back.

Nate's journey to NYC and Broadway fame is an addicting, and awesomely unpredictable, one! Nate encounter's many different people and has many different experiences along the way: some that will leave you giggling, some that will leave you thoughtful, all super entertaining. I loved getting a first-hand look at the exciting, fast-paced, and, at times, utterly scary and competitive world of Broadway auditions! Federle clearly knows this world inside-out, and his knowledge and experience add wonderful and believable layers to Nate's story. Nate's audition process is equal parts disastrous, miraculous, and inspiring.

Better Nate Than Ever has a brilliant cast of characters! Nate is a completely endearing, witty, and thoughtful main character. Readers will easily relate to Nate and will root and cheer for him the entire way. Libby is now one of my favorite MG heroines ever! This clever, fearless, funny, plucky, and loyal girl is an absolute gem of a character. And Libby and Nate have such a sweet, lovable friendship.

Nate's quest for Broadway fame is a bumpy, moving, hilarious, and satisfying one. Better Nate Than Ever ends on a perfect note without being cheesy and unrealistic, which I appreciated.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS: Tim Federle has crafted a story worthy of big musical numbers with sparkling lights, jazz hands, and all. With its humor, heart, honesty, and awesome characters, Better Nate Than Ever captured, amused, and delighted me from beginning to end. This is a MUST read for anyone who has ever dreamed big then dared to dream even bigger!
Profile Image for LenaRibka.
1,427 reviews416 followers
March 4, 2015

A kid who might have found someplace where he doesn't have to change anything about himself, to fit in.

(A kid going as himself for Halloween, but the best version, the ultimate.)

A better Nate than ever.

Nate Foster , a 13 years old boy from Pittsburgh, has a backstory- he can sing, he loves to sing and he knows EVERY SINGLE MUSICAL on this planet.

And Nate Forster has a dream- he wants to star in a Broadway show .

And Nate Forster has a plan - to take a bus to New York to audition for a Broaday musical version of E.T., and get back home after the audition BEFORE his parents come back from their seventeen-year anniversary weekend. He has never been anywhere in his life except Pittsburgh.

And Nate Forster has a little help from his only and the best friend Libby, who shares his love for musicals. But as we all know from our own experience- not everything in our life works as it should.

No, this book is not exactly Nate Fosteralone alone in NY .
Well, in some way maybe. What this book is for sure NOT is a MM-romance. And what this book for sure doesn't have - a sexual tension or sex scenes. This book is a child book. Look at all these awards that Better Nate Than Ever was nominated for or won:

*** Stonewall Book Award Nominee for Children's & Young Adult Literature (2014)
*** Golden Kite Award for Fiction (2014)
*** Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2015)
*** Lambda Literary Award Nominee for LGBT Children's/Young Adult (2014)
*** American Library Association Rainbow List Top 10 (2014)
*** ALA Odyssey Honor Book (2014)
*** Odyssey Honor (2014)
*** YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (Top Ten) (2014)

It is a wonderful book, a refreshing, a sweet début novel about friendship and family and about our most impossible dreams come true.

If you love musicals, and I mean - if you REALLY have expert knowledge or at least are well-informed about a content of many musicals - you probably will have even more fun reading this book than I had, because Nate compares almost every situation in his life and almost every person he comes across with a scene or a character from musicals.

I thought I would laugh non-stop reading the book, and I really did, in the beginning, but more I read about a boy who was a bit different and therefore he didn't have a lot of friends except Libby, about a boy being bullied at school and called names, even if Nate told his story with humour and a warm child charm, even when he tried to find all these episodes in his boyish life comical and witty, my anger against his classmates and my sadness has been grown toward the end.

After reading about the author, I can imagine that this book was a result of his own experience and probably even a bit autobiographical. He grew up in San Francisco and Pittsburgh before moving to New York to dance on Broadway.

Profile Image for Ulysses Dietz.
Author 15 books623 followers
June 2, 2013
I resisted Tim Federle's "Better Nate than Ever" just because it was so popular and has been getting such incredible press.

But Federle is coming to my local bookstore and I figured I should read it, and go meet him.

Good move. It's a wonderful book. Yes, as one of the lone low-score reviewers said, it might be a book for people who are into Broadway and that whole New York experience - but given that this means millions of potential people across the country, then why is that a criticism? Some people. Yeesh.

This is a Young Adult novel aimed at early teenagers - but written with a sparkling, sharp-edged humor and bracingly fast pace. The author's voice feels like a teen, but has the language skills of an adult. It works - or it worked for me. A lot. It all but careens through Nate Foster's escape from the rural outskirts of Pittsburgh to the gritty reality of what he, adorably, calls Manhattan City.

There is not a single thing about Nate that resembles me or my life at the age of thirteen. And yet I identified with him so fully as I read the book I had to stop and remind myself that I wasn't like this.

I laughed out loud throughout the book - and yet there were several moments, small, incisive bits of very smart writing, that surprised me into tears. Because where Nate and I do intersect is that place where, at thirteen, you realize you're not a "normal" boy, and that you'll never fit into that mold. Never.

And the great triumph of this book is that Nate, in the end, is fine with that. Which makes the whole adventure more than worthwhile - for me, as well.
Profile Image for Mary Catherine.
232 reviews4 followers
October 20, 2012
5 out of 5 stars on Ordinary People, Extraordinary Works

Okay, so I had made this (somewhat strange) decision that I was going to stop reviewing books, save the random thoughts on GoodReads. And for a while - a long while - I was awesome about it. Sure, that had to do with lack of time and reading manuscripts instead of books, but that is not the point here. The point here is actually that I have to throw away the idea that I'm not reviewing on this site because I found the most awesome middle grade book ever.

So let's get the awkwardness out of the way first - Tim Federle was on Broadway and I most likely saw him in Gypsy with Bernadette Peters though I really would not have known since I was in the last row of the god-forsaken theater that made me feel like I had vertigo. I probably also saw his work in Billy Elliot but we won't talk about that. We all know I loved the dancing but that was about it. Oops.

I digress.

That being said, I'm pretty sure Tim is going to be the biggest star once this book hits shelves. I'm talking big star like the important one in The Princess and the Frog:

In BETTER NATE THAN EVER, Nate Foster lives in Jankburg, PA, which is about as far from the spotlights of Broadway as you can get - at least for this 13-year-old. What's important to note here is that Nate is that kid - the one I love, the one who lives and breathes showtunes, the one who may or may not start snapping his fingers when he finds himself on an empty street with West Side Story playing in the background. So when his best friend/vocal teacher/everything under the sun, Libby, hears about an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, they both know Nate has to go for it - even if the auditions are in New York City.

I know what you're all thinking - "Mary, of course you loved this. It's all about Broadway musicals. You're obsessed with that."

Wait, come back! Don't go!

Are you back? Good, because BETTER NATE is so much more than a Broadway-infused book. Not only is this one of the funniest books I've read this year - and I'm talking nearly falling off my bed the first time Nate "curses" because that's how hard I was laughing - it's also one of the most heartfelt and emotionally-packed reads of my year. Tim somehow manages to write moments that made me think "did that really just happen?" the way Spring Awakening once did with "My Junk is You." Nate is a go-getter but in the naive way that most kids are. And that's one of the best parts of this book - Nate is a kid. He's 13 and he sounds like it. He's got a bit of that sass that most kids do but Tim writes him like an actual boy his age. This isn't Dawson's Creek, people.

There were also moments that made me sniffle and run the back of my hand over my cheeks to make sure I wasn't actually crying - something which you'll never actually know. But to put it in retrospect, some parts of this book made me want to uglycry - the way I did when Hunter Parrish left Godspell, the way I always do when Armageddon is on TV and it's that stupid moment when Liv Tyler holds her hand up to the monitor of white noise because her dad's about to give up his life for the world (oops, was that a spoiler?). In fact, I felt so deeply for Nate that sometimes I actually wanted to uglycry the way I did (and still do) at the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 2.

I have so much love for this novel - this fantastic marketed-to-the-middle-grade-age novel - because it's hilarious and riveting. Here's a boy with big dreams who has a best friend with whom he concocts crazy schemes with -- and it's all to follow his dreams.

We all had dreams as children. We still have dreams as adults.

I dare any of you (and myself, for that matter) to go for your dreams the way Nate does in this book.

Who knows... You may surprise yourself.

Profile Image for Christina (A Reader of Fictions).
4,230 reviews1,650 followers
January 18, 2019
Better Nate Than Ever was absolutely terrible for my reading schedule. It totally made me not want to read . . . anything else, that is. Seriously, it's a good thing this was a short audiobook or I would probably still have put off my other books to finish this one. I just kept inventing reasons that I needed to listen to more, tasks to do so I could listen rather than read my print books, which is a good sign.

Why Did I Read This Book?
Well, Better Nate Than Ever was already on my radar, because I do love stories with glbtq themes. However, the wanting turned to needing because my friend MG read it, and said it was completely wondrous. Thus, when I had the chance to get the audio, I went for it the way Nate Foster goes for donuts.

What's the Story Here?
Nate Foster is a kid with big dreams. He's flamboyant, hungry all the time, and possessed of a fantastic best friend who will egg him on to try his hardest in everything. Libby, his bestie, tells him about an audition for the Broadway musical of E.T., and helps him plan a day trip to New York City, so that he can try out for the show. Bad idea bears, right, guys? A thirteen year old off to the city by himself, and it's not like Nate's possessed of a lot of street smarts. Anyway, shenanigans and tomfoolery will be had. Snooty mothers and pompous smirkers will be faced. Hopes and dreams will be attempted with everything Nate's got.

How are the Characters?
Nate and Libby are sympathetic, because they're the outcasts (and because they use flopped Broadway plays as epithets, which is hilarious and clever). However, they're definitely not idealized or anything, because they can be just as mean as the others. Well, okay, not just as mean, but they are pretty judgmental too. Both of them are teased really severely, for being fat and, in Nate's case, for being gay. I liked that Nate is very obviously flawed, but that you cannot help but root for this crazy kid. I cringed for him when he committed egregious errors, and rooted for him to go home without his aspirations smashed into little pieces along the New York City sidewalk. Also, Federle does dive into some larger family issues on top of the overarching comedic plot, which I thought was pretty fantastic, since the tone remains light but serious issues are covered.

And the GLBTQ Themes?
What I love here is that romance really isn't a plot line. In fact, Nate isn't gay. He probably is, based on a couple of hints, but he's still in the questioning stage of life. He hasn't reached a firm decision about who he is yet. Better Nate Than Ever is written in a style that addresses the reader, like Nate has just sat down to enact this whole scenario for you in a one man show, which he would TOTALLY do, and Nate straight out says that he's undecided, because he's just thirteen. I love that, because, sure, some people know right away, but just because he loves musicals and fits the stereotype of a gay guy, that doesn't mean he is. There were also some undercurrents of shame in his thoughts, though, so I hope that if he is gay, he can find strength with himself to see that as the positive thing it is, and not something shameful and secretive. All of his feelings felt very real to him, and conveyed how confused he is overall and not ready for all the romance stuff.

How was the Narration?
Tim Federle was the perfect choice to narrate this. I mean, I do love when authors narrate their own work, because there's something so personal and touching in that. Of course, not every author has a voice for narration, but Federle is fantastic. He does Nate so well, and reads with scads of emotion. Basically, I loved everything about the way he narrated this, and everything about Better Nate Than Ever just made me smile and compulsively keep listening.
Profile Image for Aaron Hartzler.
Author 5 books422 followers
October 24, 2012
Featuring the best title of a YA book this calendar year, NATE will make you laugh, yes, but you'll have tears in your eyes while you do. Federle writes humor with a sort of effortless breeze—like he cut his teeth on a remote control watching reruns of I LOVE LUCY—while simultaneously plumbing the depth of feeling found in being seized by a dream that inspires you to risk everything, even when you're not exactly sure why.

This book is a call to action, really; NATE will whisper courage in your ear. It will inspire you to take a long, hard look at the dreams you have, especially the ones you may be trying to ignore. It will also inspire you to push back the furniture in the living room and practice your outside pirouette while singing "Dancing Through Life" from WICKED. (Or maybe that's just me, but you'll love this book.)
Profile Image for Rachael.
541 reviews56 followers
April 23, 2019
Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster is your quintessential small-town social outcast. He's chubby, terrible at sports, and prone to belting out Broadway songs in public bathrooms. When he and his loyal BFF Libby learn about an open casting call for the Broadway musical adaptation of E.T., they hatch a plan. Nate will take the bus from Pennsylvania to New York, audition, and be on his way home before his family ever knows he's gone. Naturally, things don't go exactly according to plan.

I love this book. It's just so loveable, as is its plucky, awkward protagonist, and it is Nate, as character and as narrator, who carries the novel on his sweaty middle school shoulders. Debut novelist Federle really nails the voice of a kid at the worst, in-betweeniest age. Sometimes Nate is wiser than his years, but more often he is painfully and hilariously naive. On his first visit to New York, he's starstruck by the "biggest Applebees in the world," and tries to strike up a friendship with a street hawker. A lot of this is played for laughs, but by the end of the book the tone grows gradually more poignant.

And that brings us to Federle's second great accomplishment: this is an LGBTQ book without being an LGBTQ book. Nate never states outright that he is gay - in fact, by the conclusion, he's only just begun to tentatively question his sexual identity. In both obvious and subtle ways, though, Nate's urban odyssey leads him towards that process of introspection. One of the most powerful passages comes when Nate explains the allure of New York to his aunt's (gay) roommate. "`Two boys were dancing together in a club,' I want to say, `and nobody stopped them.' But instead I say `I want to be on Broadway, and you can't do that forty-five minutes outside of Pittsburgh.'"

Broadway is a stand-in for gay, in a way, but it also isn't. Nate really does want to be a Broadway star - badly. He also wants to live in a place where he doesn't get beat up on a regular basis for his perceived homosexuality. The story can be about both things, Federle seems to say. Text and subtext are always intertwined.

Better Nate Than Ever is not without its flaws. It's a bit slow to start, and some of the structural choices (such as the parenthetical flashbacks in one chapter) are questionable. There's a lot of landscape - both inner and outer - to keep track of, and a lot of characters too. For the most part, though, Federle has done an admirable job of keeping it all together.

The verdict? I suspect Nate may be this year's Wonder or Okay for Now. Lots of popular accolades, lots of critical praise from outside the library bubble, a heartwarming message, etc. I think it's better than both of those books, but this is the kind of crowd-pleaser that the committees often seem to snub.
Profile Image for Margaret.
278 reviews169 followers
January 1, 2014
Better Nate Than Ever is an enjoyable and humorous confection of a book, Federle’s first aimed at the 9-13 year-old reader. Its protagonist, Nate, is an undertall, overweight, unathletic eighth-grader whose consuming passion is Broadway musicals. His older brother Anthony is, on the other hand, an accomplished high school athlete. They live in western Pennsylvania in a town outside Pittsburgh where athletic prowess matters and a love for musicals marks a boy as somewhat less than masculine.

On the weekend that Anthony has a major track meet, the boys’ parents go out of town, leaving Anthony in charge. Nate talks Anthony into letting him stay overnight at his best friend Libby’s house. Anthony is only too happy not to have to keep track of his younger brother and agrees. But the overnight at Libby’s is a ruse; Nate’s real plan is to take the bus to NYC where he will try out for a part in ET: The Musical, which is to open on Broadway. The bulk of the book takes place in NYC recounting Nate’s experiences in the Big Apple. Federle, as it turns out, has his own story of trying out for shows on Broadway and knows the scene there quite well. The array of young performers trying out for Broadway parts and their various parents and guardians are a fascinating bunch.

The book does not hide from the abuse that boys like Nate receive from others. He is called all sorts of names as he is suspected to be a homosexual by his peers, including his brother Anthony, who constantly uses various insults to attack his brother. For his part, Nate claims to be neither straight nor gay but pre-sexual, a claim that is true; at the same time, he is much relieved to meet adult male homosexuals in NYC and to see that they have “normal” lives. So the book does deal with homosexuality, but indirectly and oh, so gently. Still, there are young readers out there who need to see such a character as Nate presented as a boy who succeeds in finding his way. For those kids this book is a life-saver; for everyone else, it’s a good read. Lots of laughs all the way through.

My only caveat is that this book is the first of a series. Readers are left somewhat hanging at the end. Even so, the book is a satisfying read on its own. The sequel Four, Five, Six is due out in January 2014.
Profile Image for Aleksandra.
1,411 reviews
November 18, 2016
Adventures! Adventures of 13 year old boy who runs away to NYC for musical audition!

This is an honest, funny and charming story. Got a few twists and turns that surprised. I love the atmosphere of the book. Naïveté, optimism and determination Nate has are admirable (I love the kid so much).
Nate is a wonderful protagonist, it was such a pleasure to read the book from his pov. Secondary characters are multi-dimensional and realistic; the family dynamic was fascinating, too. Kudos to Nate and Libby friendship btw.
New York was like the other character and looking at the city from Nate's pov was wonderful experience.

I can't believe this is Tim Federle debut. He's so talented and I'm definitely reading more of his books.

Better Nate Than Ever is charming exciting inspiring book, it's a quick and enjoyable read. I laughed, I teared up, I had such a great time reading the book, it's definitely worth checking out. (the target audience is middle grade and I'm long not, but I still loved the book, great middle grade books are my thing)
Profile Image for Amy.
1,266 reviews4 followers
September 6, 2016
Nailed it! Tim Federle has written one of the funniest novels of the year. I was roaring reading this tale of a young 13 year-old Broadway wannabe and his madcap adventures. I truly could not stop laughing at many of the passages because they were pitch-perfect. For anyone who has ever done theater or know those that have, you will be screaming with laughter.
This isn't to say that Better Nate Than Ever is just a light-hearted romp. There are some poignant moments dealing with Nate's sexuality and his tense family relations. They are dealt with in a loving way and never come across as preachy or melodramatic; two things that most books dealing with prejudice have a tendency to do.

I shelved this in Junior and YA and am struggling to decide which is more appropriate. I tend to lean towards 12 and up for this one. This book is real gem, I would recommend it to teens and adults alike.
Profile Image for Mercedes.
1,080 reviews92 followers
October 31, 2013
Adorably funny YA story about 13 yo Nate Foster. It is true that this book may be written with teenagers in mind. I even see my own son reading this book when he turns 10 or so. But for now I am glad I found it and enjoyed it so immensely.

Pick up this book if you want to come along in the brave and hilarious adventure of 13 year old Nate taking off on his own from his home town in Western PA for an audition in NYC. Of course Nate can't pull this one off on his own and he counts with his partner in crime and best friend Libby who helps him make sure his day trip goes off without a hitch. As you can expect things never go as planned and soon Nate is braving situation after situation.

Trust me when I say you won't be sorry you pick up this book. I loved Tim Federle's sense of humor. You can sample it yourself on his "About" page on his website: http://www.timfederle.com/#abouttim
Profile Image for Chris.
Author 133 books2,261 followers
September 1, 2016
One of the best books I have read in a long time. In fact, I think I will share it with everybody working on their debut novel as an example of how to do it. Made me remember how much I loved New York City when I moved here to be an actor and writer way back in 1979. I believe I was 5 at the time.
Profile Image for niki.
23 reviews
September 7, 2018
Okay, so this book was intresting. In the middle of the book I was bored out of my mind! I just wanted the book to end. After that it started getting better and at the end it was fine. This book was just not for me, I was SO SO SO bored! You should try it out, but it is very painful through out the middle.
Profile Image for Eileen.
1,936 reviews75 followers
July 17, 2021
4.5 stars

This was seriously cute! If I had to summarize this book with one word, I would say that it has heart. Nate is a kid that doesn't quite fit into his family, his school, or his town. The only person who really gets him is his best friend Libby. They are both obsessed with musicals, and Nate dreams of making it on Broadway. Libby loves and supports Nate and wants to help make his dreams come true. So when his parents leave for their 17th anniversary trip and his brother kicks him out to spend the night at Libby's, Nate and Libby hatch a plan for Nate to sneak off to NYC in order to audition for ET: the Musical. I absolutely love how he works through his fears and doubts and just pretty much goes for it. And even when he fails, he still doesn't want to give up. I love his estranged aunt and his friend Libby and how they never stop loving and rooting for him, even when they might get in trouble for it. This book made me laugh, tear up, and cheer for Nate and I was very happy with the ending and can't wait to read more.
Profile Image for Julie.
508 reviews9 followers
June 10, 2014
This book. Where do I start?

First, with the good. Federle is a good writer, and the story moves at a good pace. I don't remember ever reading a book about a kid who was so interested and committed to theater. Nate's ability to navigate his way to New York City and tryout for a big-time production is amazing and inspiring, even as he deals with bullies (and even grown ups) who do not take him seriously, make fun of his "flaws", and generally put roadblock after roadblock in his path. He struggles to find support and self-confidence, even as his naivete and dedication continue to propel him forward, and he discovers that he can achieve much more than anyone gave him credit for.

Now for the problems. This book, intended for readers between the ages of 9 and 13, is often jarring at times, because the character seems to be in this age range, and most of the writing is only appropriate for this age range -- but then, suddenly, a more "mature" moment gets thrown in there. It is no secret that Nate (age 13) is realizing his attraction more to other boys than girls, but then there are parts where he is ogling grown up men. Other readers have had a hard time with the author's inclusion of the "f"-word (ends with a "-g" or "-ot", rather than a "-ck"), which I understand has more to do with understanding the slurs that are thrown at Nate as opposed to encouraging kids to use that kind of language. I had to think about this story long and hard as a parent, and make sure I was not simply uncomfortable with it because the main character is coming to terms with his sexuality.

However, imagine the main character is a girl, and this is how part of the story goes: "...And as I'm fondling the rabbit foot and making sure my fly is zipped up and wondering if we woke Freckles, out he comes from the bedroom, wearing pajama bottoms and -- oh, how funny -- no shirt. 'What's up?' he says, rubbing his eye. Gosh, nobody back home is built like him, other than the varsity swim team. But he's so much older than them, like some animated character: AdultBoyMan, with a high schooler's fatless body and a kind of adult's face." Or maybe turn "Freckles" into a woman, as described by a straight boy -- how would that go over? One reviewer called this book "good for any age" -- but really???!!! Not for my kids, at least under the age of 13 or 14.

There are other parts of the book that seem a bit too racy for this age group as well: Nate's best friend (a girl) is caught playing in his brother's underwear drawer, Nate's mother shows up drunk to bring him home from NYC, a comment from his father that leads Nate to mention "This from a man who reportedly ran around with an exotic dancer in McKeesport throughout all of last winter," and other (dirty) asides that I can't imagine even quoting here (i.e., discussions about a Museum of Sex and the hood of his borrowed parka).

It's a shame, really, because most of these questionable (at best) parts could have been left out, and it would have been a much more appropriate book, without compromising much from the story overall. And kids need a book like this, with a point of view that's different from the current norm.

My take? You need a strong stomach and a birth certificate that is at least 14 years old to enjoy this book.
Profile Image for Carol Royce Owen.
970 reviews14 followers
May 18, 2013
Started and finished this book today as it was a very easy read, witty and lighthearted, but with the root of bullying propelling the main character, Nate, forward to overcome every obstacle to make something of himself.

Nate is a small 13 year old boy who, together with his best friend Libby, has planned an overnight bus trip from his home in Jankburg, PA to NYC to audition for the role of Elliot in E.T. the Musical. Although everything goes as planned, when he gets to NYC he quickly discovers that he's a "small fish in a big pond," and that without his parents consent he has no hopes of making it. But to his parents he barely exists. All of their attention and time is spent celebrating Nate's brother, Anthony, wonder-jock. The only attention he gets is embarrassed comments from his parent, "try to take a page from your brother's book - to fit in," and "you meeting any nice girls at school, son?"

I won't say how it happens, so as not to spoil things, but Nate does get to participate in the first "type-out", in which group of actors are lined up and the casting crew goes down the row and makes spot decisions based on size, looks, abilities, etc. But when Nate's number isn't called to stay for further auditions, he's left with how to deal with going back to his life of drudgery and constant bullying. Due to his size and love of anything show tunes he is often the victim of name calling, beatings, and being shoved in lockers, toilets, and garbage cans. Here in NYC though, he sees that his differences would not be a source of ridicule, and for that reason he has fallen in love with NYC. How can he leave all that he has found in NYC and return home?

I can't end this review without commenting on Tim Federle's writing style. I think it would have been interesting being his teacher, because I can only imagine that he would babble non-stop for hours on end, stopping only to wonder at a butterfly that floated by, but then launching right back in to a story that he started 20 minutes ago that has taken 5 diversions since. A bit like being on a roller coaster, yet somehow he'd always get back to point A and although your senses may take a few moments to catch up, you finally do and you can only think, "Whew! What a ride...let's do it again!" With that said, I look forward to further books from Tim Federle.
Profile Image for Kerry Cerra.
Author 3 books67 followers
July 3, 2013
Better Nate Than Ever is the perfect example of why I love middle grade books more than a perfectly made Starbucks Vanilla Chai Latte. There’s something about kids in this age range that is so freaking cool. They’re still finding their way in a giant, often scary world, but their perceptions are so dead-on I sometimes wish we could all wear middle-grade blinders daily.

Nate’s tired of living in the grey world of Jankburg, PA. Worse than that, he’s sick of being bullied for his love of musical theater by classmates and made worse by his own highly messed-up family. When his best friend Libby—and let me tell you everyone should have a best friend as awesome as her!—spills the deets about an open casting call for the role of Elliot in the musical version of ET, they hatch a plan for Nate to sneak off to New York City via Greyhound Bus and be back again before anyone discovers he’s gone. It’s foolproof!

Of course, it wouldn’t be a great book without lots of mishaps on Nate’s voyage, and the hilarious audition we have the privilege of experiencing right along with Nate is brilliant. Seriously, if you don’t laugh out loud, you’re not human. And just as quickly as you laugh, you’ll be brought to tears with Nate’s inner thoughts about knowing—more than anything he’s ever known before—that NYC is just where he belongs. It’s the one place he finally feels comfortable and accepted for who he is. So how could he ever return to Jankburg? Is knowing NYC will be his future someday, enough to get him through the next few years if he has to go back to PA? Read it and find out. But don’t forget to have a tissue nearby. PS The references to different musicals throughout the book are totally an added bonus. Grab this hot summer read and down it in one sitting. Author, Tim Federle, deserves a standing ovation!
Profile Image for April.
2,597 reviews173 followers
January 23, 2015
I can not express how much I loved this book!! Such a fun read!! I used to work as an assistant to a Children's Talent Agent, so I am familiar with the process. It was fun to read about some of my old haunts as well.

I love this story because it reminds me so much of some of my friends and how I imagine they were as kids. The boys in the middle of nowhere who are obsessed with musicals and just trying to survive high school. They have not decided what their sexuality is, but others have decided for them and bully them for it.

Nate is looking for an escape, and NYC is his Mecca. His journey to the audition and the events of the day are hilarious. He is do determined in reaching his goal. It is also fun to watch his reaction to the city for the first time. His excitement is palpable. It is easy to get on board with his dream and hope he succeeds.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by the author Tim Federle, who is wonderful. I generally cringe when told it is a book narrated by the author, usually it is a train wreck because they are not actors. This was a delight in so many ways! He of course has a feel for the characters and understands the situations. He has a great pace and terrific voices. Loved this enthusiastic and energetic read!

I am very excited to see what happens in the next book. Nate on his next great adventure and the wonderful supporting cast.

Fantastic for middle grade readers, boys and girls. Although it is more likely to appeal to boys who are like Nate. A little offbeat but so very lovable!

*** If you found this review at all helpful, please take a moment to let me know. I love reading and sharing my opinions with other readers. Thanks for taking the time to read my review! You can see more audiobook reviews on my blog www.eargasmsaudiobookreviews.com ***
Profile Image for Richard Kramer.
Author 1 book75 followers
April 3, 2013
BETTER NATE THAN EVER, Tim Federle’s new novel, is about different kinds of flight … the flight its title character, the undersized 13 year old Nate Foster, makes from misery in his hometown of Jankburg PA --to a Broadway audition for a musical version of ET (which is actually a great idea).

It’s about another kind of flight, too, that of the imagination that lifts Nate up beyond the range of the taunts aimed at him by the school bullies who think they know who he is and want to force him to accept that knowledge.

And it’s a book about the flight on the way to becoming, about a boy whose wings are still powered by innocence; he isn’t yet all the things he’s going to be, but he’ll be there soon; the novel picks Nate up and deposits him on a road where he can see the towers of Emerald City start to gleam, just for him, welcoming him. And maybe, someday – if he’s really lucky – he’ll even see WICKED.

BETTER NATE THAN EVER delighted me, and touched me, and made me want to write a book exactly like it. Unfortunately, Mr. Federle has already done that job. He’s a performer on Broadway, too. I’ve never heard him sing, but I’ve heard him write, and his is one of the freshest voices I’ve come across in a long time, innocent and experienced at the same moment, winning and sweet but not without its own original hints of darkness. The book is written for young readers, but this ancient one liked it so much he read it twice, with gratitude and envy.
Profile Image for Dov Zeller.
Author 2 books105 followers
September 11, 2015
This book very close to inspired me to create a shelf called "adorable."

I too grew up gender-non-conforming in Pennsylvania, and dreamed of escaping, so there was extra meaning in that, though I was not particularly theatrical. Nate reminds me a lot of my childhood best friend who was very involved in theater and wanted to do exactly what Nate is doing. (He did finally move to NY. I think he is no longer acting, but he seems to be enjoying his life there.)

This is a fun book and though there were a few things that were underdeveloped or a little nonsensical, I really appreciate the sweetness, the humor, the dignified and comedic address of bullying, and a storyline that gives Nate the opportunity to leave his small town and escape (at least for a while) into a more accepting and dynamic environment.

The book is fast-paced and easy to read and brings up complex issues in a way that is delicate and often with a light touch. Nate as a character is a great combination of witty and wonder-struck, insecure and intrepid, childishly awkward and surprisingly mature.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, easy, uplifting comedy. I love the way queerness is addressed in here so far. I can imagine a lot of kids who struggle with "not fitting in" at home or at school will really enjoy it, especially if they're into musicals. I look forward to reading the next installment.
Profile Image for Earl.
3,496 reviews39 followers
June 30, 2014
I stayed up all night reading this book! This was getting a lot of buzz where I work. How can it not? It’s about a boy who runs away to audition for E.T.: The Musical! You can’t help but be taken in by Nate’s wide-eyed wonderment of New York City. As awkward as he was and the sometimes cringeworthy situations he finds himself in, he was definitely relatable. Another great character is his best friend Libby. I’m rooting for Nate and am hoping there’ll be more books to come.

I decided to listen to the audiobook version of the book since June is Audiobook and Pride month. I was as invested in the story as I was the first time!
Profile Image for Steph.
4,483 reviews48 followers
February 2, 2016
Would I in a million years put this in my kinder-third grade library? Nope.

But did I laugh our loud repeatedly? You betcha.

Best audiobook I've ever listened to. The author read it perfectly which is proof that more authors should do their own recordings! Fabulous!

12-13 year olds would be a good fit for this one!

4.5 stars
Profile Image for Anja.
603 reviews48 followers
May 28, 2015

Awesome. And so cute. So so so so cute.
Can't say anything else. It was just cute.
One thing more: Nate is so freaking adorable ❤️

Loved almost everything about this book. Only the ending was somewhat disappointing. It came way too abrupt for my liking.
Profile Image for Raina.
1,596 reviews125 followers
July 9, 2015
A great example of when an author SHOULD read his own talking book.
Totally likeable characters, lovely exuberant emotions.
As a former thespian, I loved the insiders view of the audition process for a major Broadway production.
Thoroughly entertaining, funny, and sweet.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,768 reviews332 followers
May 1, 2023
Book on CD read by the author

Thirteen-year-old Nate Foster doesn’t seem to fit into his family. His big brother is a star athlete and gets all the attention from his parents. While Nate just wants to sing and dance and be a Broadway star. Thank heavens for his best friend, Libby. And it’s Libby who notices that there will be auditions for a brand-new musical adaptation of E.T. and helps Nate concoct a scheme so that he can go to New York for the audition.

This was a wonderful coming-of-age story with a great big heart. Nate is a great kid – funny, intelligent, resourceful, brave. He has a chance at his dream, and he is going to go after it with all he’s got. Of course, he also gets a little help from his Aunt Heidi, his mother’s estranged sister, who happens to live in Manhattan, and her roommate “Freckles” who also works in the same restaurant as she does. They know a thing or two about dreams, and about acting.

Nate’s road to stardom is not without roadblocks, starting with the downpour that drenches the only clothes he has. He’s pretty naïve and spends what little money he has on the wrong things; he has no way to call anyone as his cell phone battery has died; more than one kid (and his/her parent) also vying for a role are quite mean to Nate, cutting what little confidence he has. But he has dealt with bullies before and he will not to be denied his chance. He might not have a headshot, or have attended special dance classes, but he’s here, isn’t he?

The scenes are sometimes tender and sometimes a bit frightening, but there is also plenty of humor, and a sense of hope. Nate is so easy to cheer for. The book ends on a cliffhanger, setting up a sequel. Normally, I hate this device, but it was really the perfect ending for the book.

Tim Federle narrates the audiobook himself. I can’t imagine anyone doing a better job of it.
Profile Image for Debbie.
816 reviews13 followers
August 1, 2020
The inside flap of the dust jacket of Better Nate Than Ever states that the book is for ages 9 to 13, but I would add that adults would enjoy this too. 13-year-old Nate Foster runs away from his Pennsylvania home in order to audition for ET the Musical. His parents are away for a couple of days and his older brother pays very little attention to him. With his best friend’s help, he should be able to pull off a trip to New York City for the audition and be home before anyone misses him.
I’ve never been to NYC, so I’m sure I would be as wide-eyed and as excited as Nate was! Tim Federle very cleverly has Nate’s adventures in NYC mirror ET’s adventures on earth. (I was slow to pick up on this until Nate was munching on Reese pieces.) I also found Nate’s experiences with the audition process fascinating. Even though some serious topics are mentioned – Nate’s parents are having marital problems, some family members suffer from alcoholism, Nate is bullied at school – the feel of the book is humorous and hopeful and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Brian.
266 reviews2 followers
July 15, 2017
we gave this book to our fourth grader for Christmas, not knowing anything about it. he came to us very upset the other night because of the book takes the Lord's name in vain lots of times. we felt bad that he had encountered that when he wasn't prepared for it, and I thought maybe I should take a look at it, too. little did I know that the number of times the character says "oh God" would be the least of my worries.
As far as subject matter goes , I think this book would be challenging but appropriate for a middle-schooler. It discusses homosexuality, underage drinking, pornography, bullying, loss of faith, divorce, alcoholism, family estrangement, and more. It includes a couple of blanked out instances of the S word and then refers to it as the S word a few times. it uses the term a-hole. in short, I'm mortified that my fourth grader read it.
the story is good, the characters enjoyable, with some excellent humor, too. It has a good message, but it's definitely a challenging book that warrants some serious discussion. I wish there had been some hints about the content in the book's description rather than just making it sound like a fun adventure in New York.
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