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The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

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Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

372 pages, Paperback

First published January 22, 2019

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About the author

Ben Philippe

4 books681 followers
Ben Philippe was born in Haiti, raised in Montreal, Canada, and resides in New York City where he teaches and writes for television. He is an alum of Columbia University and a graduate of the Michener Center for Writers of UT Austin. To this day, he still does not have a valid driver’s license, which is both #beautiful and #brave.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,436 reviews
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
February 21, 2020
This was such a fun, endearing, and thought-provoking book.

Subject: Norris Kaplan, a Black French-Canadian high school student who is forced to move from Canada to Austin, Texas when his mother takes a university job there. Leaving his home, his best friend, hockey fans, etc., is bad enough, but for a teenager with overactive sweat glands, moving to Texas is like hell on earth. (Maybe hotter?)

"Of all the things Norris disliked about leaving his life behind, his mother's paranoid insistence that they become apolitical while living in Texas had provided Norris with the most enjoyment. It's not that you can't have an opinion, she had told him. You just need to have less of them. People won't always know when you're joking."

He’s prepared to hate everything and everyone, and he’s always been the type to keep people at a distance with heavy doses of sarcasm. (I totally feel seen here.) But armed with his knowledge of American movies and television he’s ready to mesh with all of the typical stereotypes.

Sure, he encounters the bitchy cheerleaders, the Neanderthals that are the jocks, the people who like to say "eh" to mock his Canadian accent. But he also finds friends in unlikely places, and is mesmerized by Aarti, the “manic pixie dream girl” whose mercurial nature confuses Norris.

While Norris is busy eviscerating everyone with quips and insults he doesn’t realize he’s just as guilty as his fellow students of making snap judgments about him. And his fervent desires to go back home to Canada leaves him too blind to see the good things and the good people right in front of him.

"We all mess things up. It's what you do with the mess that matters."

I really enjoyed this book. Norris, while he has some flaws, is a great character, and I'd love it if Ben Philippe would bring him and his entourage back for another book sometime in the future. I loved the way Philippe showed the depth of other characters as well.

Even if you've never had trouble fitting in, if you've never been homesick, or if you've never kept people at arm's length with sarcasm and wit, I think you'll enjoy The Field Guide to the North American Teenager . This really was such a fun read.

Check out my list of the best books I read in 2019 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2019.html.

Check out my list of the best books of the decade at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2020/01/my-favorite-books-of-decade.html.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com.

Follow me on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/the.bookishworld.of.yrralh/.
Profile Image for mwana .
369 reviews207 followers
July 4, 2022
I am genuinely torn between writing a comprehensive review about this book as a whole or just a thesis on the best thing about this book, the main character, Norris.

After careful consideration, between exhales, I have decided to let this review flow. We start with Norris' mum, Judith, getting a teaching assignment at University of Texas. As she is separated from Norris' father, who has a new young family of his own, Norris has to move with Judith to Austin, Texas. He is not happy about it. He makes it known. Often.
“I know, I know,” Norris said. “I shouldn’t go in expecting to hate it.”
“Well, no,” Judith scoffed. “Of course you’re going to hate it!”
“Reverse psychology. Controversial but effective parenting strategy, researchers say.” Norris smiled.
Judith continued as if he hadn’t spoken at all. “You’re going to hate it the same way you’ve hated absolutely everything from the moment we got here. From the ice the new fridge makes . . .” Crushed, not cubed. . . "to the smell of the grass here . . .” Artificial and plasticky. “. . . to the layout of the grocery stores . . .” What respectable community put Cleaning Products between Fruits & Vegetables and Canned Goods? “. . . Even the fact that people here like football!”
Norris is a loner. The first skill an only child learns is to be alone and completely satisfied. But you can tell this is a brittle shell caused by unresolved abandonment issues and an inability to withdraw the snark when the occasion calls for it. For people who subscribe to the school of manners and respectability, Norris may be off-putting. Fuck respectability.

Norris is loudly and proudly sarcastic but his abrasion can often scrub the wrong target. When he joins the school, after a hilarious exchange with the guidance counselor, he gets a notebook where he's told to journal his experience. It's a great idea in theory. However, his rude belligerent notes about the people who come to mean something to him come to bite him later.

I thought I would love this as much, if not more than Charming as A Verb . Unfortunately that was not the case. This book feels like the prototype for Charming because a lot of what I have issue with here is actually polished in Charming. I would suggest reading this first then Charming. Phillipe has a gift for plot and characterisation that I feel is not being praised enough. I particularly didn't care for Aarti. A walking talking I'm Not Like Other Girls because she likes photography and wants to travel. She's a self-absorbed cliche vastly lacking in self-awareness. At first I thought I would like her because she seemed to be as quick-witted as Norris. However when she dropped turds like,
“...being alone is an unnatural state,” Aarti said with a frown...
I wanted to smack her. When she went on to act a bitch because Norris bought her a snow globe, I wanted to smite her. She later appeared to me as an antithesis of Norris and I was against the eventual friendship they shared.

I know I've said it before but it bears repeating. Norris is the best thing about this book. When he finds out that his new friend Liam is wealthy,
Still, money wasn’t a topic polite people discussed. “So,” Norris whistled over the click of his seat belt. “You’re rich, huh?”
He's a boy who knows not to take life too seriously.
Let it be known that—antislavery insurrection against French colonial rule aside—the best thing Haitians had ever done was spicy pumpkin stew.
He's also, quite simply, one of my favourite protagonists this year. If you need any reason to read this book, read it for Norris, patron saint of loners and sarcasts.
Profile Image for Jessica .
2,077 reviews13.3k followers
July 29, 2020
This was so cute! I read this because it's one of the picks for the summer reading camp I'm helping run at my high school. I really enjoyed Norris's character and his messy relationships with girls and friends. It's always hard to be the new kid, and it was fun watching Norris navigate the different social circles and try to make friends while also dealing with his complicated relationship with his dad, who still lived in Canada. I really appreciated how the conflicts in this book weren't wrapped up in a nice little bow; Norris deals with the repercussions of his actions and is just figuring out life.
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,403 reviews1,851 followers
January 7, 2019
Half stars, half stars! Is it really so much to ask?

All his life, Norris could count on his ability to strike up a conversation with anyone -- French or English speaker, black or white -- based on this sigil. Hockey was a third language back in Montreal. Where they were headed now, it would apparently only be a third eye in the middle of his forehead.

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER is a book that won me over right from page one. And that's not just because our protagonist is a Habs fan. Truly. I swear. But it didn't hurt.

"What is that C on your shirt there, son? Colorado?"
" No ."
"Hmm, well, I know that's not the Carolina Panthers. Not Charlotte, is it? What do you call 'em, the Charlotte Hornets? Is that what the H is?"
"Actually, sir, the C is for cock--"
" Canadiens! "

Experiencing a (French) Canadian's relocation, and adjustment, to Texas and all that entails -- heat, lack of hockey, heat -- was hilarious because Norris is one snarky mf'er. To the point that it gets him into trouble, alienates peers, and gets him into even more trouble. But it also lands him some friends. Friends who want to play hockey with him, friends who help him navigate the weird world of high school dating, and more.

When the bell rang, Meredith was the first one to stand up, throwing Norris a withering stare that said 'don't ever sit here again,' which meant that Norris might now have to become the squad's first male cheerleader just to spite her.

Philippe's story isn't without its frustrations because while Norris is oblivious to some bits of his own reality, the reader isn't. But I don't think that's the character's fault and nor is it a symptom of being YA. That said, I did find I enjoyed the first half of the story more than the latter half, and that isn't just because of the drama or the ending, though there were some elements I enjoyed throughout. Namely the two friends that Norris picks up in his new Texas life. Liam and Maddie were both, individually, fantastic. So was Norris' mum. Norris isn't a perfect character -- he's sarcastic and selfish and judgmental and a little bit of a Mean Girl (you'll understand if you read it).. and he's called out on all of it; some right away, in the moment, and the rest by the end. I thought there was some good resolution in the wrap-up but I also think some things were rushed through, too. But, overall, we had some truly great characters and some seriously laugh out loud moments; all that and #ownvoices to boot.

"Shouldn't you say 'the B-word' instead of 'bitch'? I thought Canadians were supposed to be polite?"
"Yes, we're all overly polite, forage for berries in the summers, and craft simple wooden objects of great beauty around the fire at night."

I will definitely read this author again.

3.5 stars

** I received an ARC from the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for ♛ may.
806 reviews3,797 followers
June 23, 2019
book #1 for summerathon, under the challenge of: "book ft. a roadtrip, traveling, or vacation"

this book has far LESS traveling/road-tripping than i anticipated. i have no idea where i got this notion, but i totally thought this was a book about a roadtrip (wow, someone needs to actually read the blurbs)


- the main character is a snarky little monster and i loved it
- the relationship between norris and his mother is so sweet and precious
- norris felt like such a honest, true teenage boy. so many times you see characters play into strong archetypes and i felt like his characters wasn't trying to be anything besides who he was.
- basically, i really like the originality of his character
- the love triangle, i thought so at least, was well-done and didn't feel forced
- the entire book felt very natural, like it was developing at its own pace
- L I A M
- i liked maddie a lot
- the ending was very fitting and realistic to the situation

- the first half of the book really set a tone and took its time to develop and i felt the second half felt more focused on the teenage drama (which is FAIR i just liked the development part)
- the 3rd person narration was sort of jarring at moments
- aarti went through the opposite of character development :)))

overall, this was a really refreshing, fun ya read and im glad i picked it up

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Lauren Lanz.
686 reviews247 followers
May 18, 2020
2.5 stars

It was nice to read about a Canadian teenager, being one myself. It's almost a rarity to come across a Canadian protagonist in YA.

“When you were the child of immigrants, you weren't just you; your success was also your parents', your cousins', your relatives' still struggling for life in Haiti or India, wishing they were you.”

Norris has lived in Canada for all of his life, and has over the years made close friends through school and his hockey team. This all threatens to change when Norris’ mother announces they’re moving to Austin Texas so she can get a degree and pursue a job. Much to his dismay, Norris will have to adjust to life in America and leave everything he knows behind.

I really appreciate how diverse this story is! Norris is black, his best friend is gay, and his love interest is Indian American. There was also great mental health representation for depression through another of Norris’ friends. Plus a lot of talk regarding immigration!
There’s a large cast of characters that are each going through a very separate experience that I can see many teens relating to.

Sadly, it took me quite a while to get into this book mainly due to the protagonist. At first, Norris came off as pretty annoying. His constant complaints and snappy behaviour--despite his circumstances--were getting excessive. Soon enough, though, Norris began to grow and get better through friends and experiences. Still, I couldn't take much of a liking to him.

Ben Philippe’s writing wasn’t anything special, though this is his debut novel. Slowly I got used to it and was able to enjoy the story a bit more. Overall, this was a decent contemporary. It was fairly entertaining, though much more could have been done with Norris’ character and the narrative.
Profile Image for Suzzie.
908 reviews164 followers
January 11, 2019
Cute coming of age read. This is one of those books that you begin and think it will be a slow read but actually gains momentum as it continues and ends with a strong finish. I grew up in a small town in Tennessee with two French Canadian parents so the description of this book really appealed to me. However, I have been out of high school for a long time so things have changed immensely so I did not expect to have a relatable to the characters reading experience, which I did not have but it was a cute story with some humor (Aarti’s dad being a big Harry Potter fan especially). I have been reading some big fantasy books lately so it this book was exactly what I was looking for: a quick read that is not too intense (though Liam’s past was). Big hockey fan here so I got more excited than I care to admit when I read P.K. Subban’s name.

My quick and simple overall: a quick cute coming of age story when you don’t want too intense or too long of read.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 5 books1,211 followers
November 26, 2018
Talk about an unlikable male character! I loved it. I loved the script flip here, turning what is usually reserved for (white) girls to be -- unlikable -- and allowing a black male character to be that inside. And while Norris is really off putting and, at times, a downright bully, his story also elicits sympathy from the reader: he's been pulled from everything he's known in Canada to Austin, Texas, where he stands out because of his French Canadian background and, well, being black. Rather than lean into this new life, Norris chooses to step outside and be an observer, rather than participant, and it makes him frustrating because he plays everyone he encounters. It's a game to him, rather than his reality.

This is a funny book about being a fish out of water and not even remotely wanting to wade back in. Philippe's writing is funny and Norris's voice is authentically teen: he's not too smart or too savvy, but instead, he's real. And that reality? Flawed, flawed, flawed.

The comp I saw to this one was WHEN DIMPLE MET RISHI and that's actually pretty good.

Also, this book wins for best YA dedication in a long, long time: https://twitter.com/veronikellymars/s...
Profile Image for Darla.
3,345 reviews526 followers
May 6, 2021
Norris took awhile to grow on me. Rounding up from 3.5 stars. The snarky observations at the beginning of each chapter had more context as the narrative moved along. Really pleased to see how much Ben Philippe appreciates his mom. Made me wonder what he would write about me if he were to walk into my library. Would he see me as simply a stereotype of a library worker with my hair in a bun? Or would we find a connection through books. I would like to think it would be the latter. Also, disappointed that the cover design changed. Really loved the yellow journal cover of early editions. Finally, book connections -- this is my second of three books set in Texas this week. The first was The Hunting Wives and the last will be An Occasionally Happy Family.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,693 followers
December 17, 2020
Wow, I didn't expect to enjoy this book that much but I actually found myself REALLY enjoying this. I love the self-awareness and humour in this book, and I had a lot of fun reading this.

- Follows Norris, a Haitian-Canadian teenager who moves to Austin, Texas with his mother. And thus unfolds his adventure into the American high school system - where everything isn't quite what he expected.
- First thing you should know? Norris is an unlikeable character - and he's a GREAT unlikeable character. I don't think for a second that Norris was framed as a character that we should like or construe as a 'good person'; he's judgmental, sometimes insensitive, and his mouth works faster than his brain.
- And yet! I really really liked Norris. He's not a 'good' guy or a 'bad' guy - he's a teenager (very honestly depicted, to be honest) who isn't perfect - and his behaviours and the things he said are challenged. He may be all the above 'bad' things, but he's also funny, thoughtful when he isn't being a dickhead, and actually, deep down, cares about people, even if he struggles to express it well.
- I think the heart of this book is about stereotypes and how judgements are wrong - and I liked that this book subverts the popular 'jocks are airheads and mean' and 'cheerleaders are shallow and uncaring' tropes and caricatures.
- I also liked that this book explores toxic friendships, idealisation of romance, family, and mental illness.
- I just had a lot of fun reading this book. It's told with tongue-in-cheek, but I really enjoyed it.

Trigger/content warning: racism, bullying, anti-gay slur, alcohol consumption, depression (episode described), suicide attempt (described, not explicitly depicted)
Profile Image for Melissa.
561 reviews803 followers
May 5, 2019
This book is, in its own way, a fresh view on the high school experience. I wanted to read it because the synopsis was really interesting, but also because Norris was from Montreal, where I am.

I loved the categorization that Norris did on his notebook, I loved his sarcasm. I also loved how he went past the first impression of several people to actually coming to know and like them (or, at least, get along with them).
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,194 reviews724 followers
January 21, 2019
An awkward and reluctant Black high school transplant to Austin, TX from Montreal, Norris Kaplan may just be one of my favorite male YA characters yet. He's awkward as can be, snarky as a defense mechanism, and not at all buying into the American high school experience. Austin is NOT his hockey-obsessed hometown and he deeply resents his divorced linguistics professor mom for dragging him into the H-O-T and ridiculous world of sun, Longhorns, and burnt orange.

This novel addresses race, class, sexuality and all sorts of high school stereotypes (cheerleaders! jocks!) head-on while simultaneously being entertaining and endearing. Norris is the child of Haitian immigrants (to Canada - also the author's background), and he incorporates that viewpoint into so much of what he narrates. I don't know if I love Norris so much because he is just as awkward as I was in high school, but he grabbed my heart from page 1.

Highly recommend to readers who can see behind the quippy comebacks to the nervous boy behind them. Recommended for high school library purchase as well!
Profile Image for Rashika (is tired).
976 reviews712 followers
January 31, 2019
Actual Rating 3.5

I don’t think this book has actually been pitched this way but when I finished the book, I couldn’t help but think of Mean Girls. The Field Guide to a North American Teenager, while not a perfect fit, read to me, like a gender-swapped Mean Girls.

Norris Kaplan is the new kid in town. Although he feels incredibly out of place, he does somehow immediately capture the attention of several people who are taken in by his snark. He writes in his journal, trying to categorize and group every individual and HS trope-y student he comes across in an attempt to other them and to distance himself. Somehow though, he finds himself mingling with the very cheerleaders and the jocks he loves to snark about. Combined with a new, cute love interest he is doing his best to court, Norris Kaplan, against all odds, ends up fitting into his new high school and having a nice, trope-y high school existence. He also ends up doing several jerk-y things that hurt almost everyone he likes.

Does that not sound pretty much like Mean Girls??? If it doesn’t, it is probably because I suck at writing words but the book itself does have that distinct feel, IMHO.

ANYWAY. SO. YES. This book is such a feel-good contemporary and I cannot. I love that we have a black mc navigating the trope-y high school experience in this book and I LOVE Philippe’s twist on those tropes. I especially love the discussion in this book about how being black paints that trope-y experience. This is such a light hearted book but those discussions are still so important and OMG, there is this one scene towards the end that was so beautifully written. I want everyone to read the book so we can scream together about that scene.

Norris, by virtue of occasionally being a self-obsessed dick, isn’t the most likable character in the world. BUT THATS OKAY. He experiences growth and development. He learns from his mistakes and has moments of reflection. Norris is also funny as fuck. Exhibit A:

“You’re very rude for a basic white girl.”

I want that quote on a t-shirt.

I do feel like it is important for me to point out that it seemed like some details regarding the LI (who is Indian) were half-assed? For example, when the Norris enters Aarti’s (the LI’s) house, he first says that “some Hindi language on the television or on the radio.” Hindi is a language? And not all Indian languages are related to Hindi? There are some that don’t share the same alphabet and are also not related to the larger Indo-European language group. Also, Aarti’s family is from West Bengal but they speak Hindi rather than Bengali?? NOT THAT THIS ISN’T POSSIBLE and doesn’t happen but this seemed less intentional and more just a general overlooking of basics. Another weird thing was when Norris was over at the Puri’s, Mrs. Puri assumed that Norris had never heard of Chicken Tikka Masala even though every Indian person knows that that is the one thing every non-Indian associates with Indian cuisine. Also, let me be perfectly clear. I don’t think these issues are a reason to not read the book or even make it inherently problematic (although a little more research would have been nice.) I just wanted to set the record straight so when people do read they book, and they 100% should, they are aware of these things.

MOVING ON. I also wish that this book had been a little less about Norris and involved all the secondary characters a bit more because they are all fabulous. I would have loved more conversations between Norris and his mom, Norris and his new friends, Norris and Eric, etc.

No book is perfect though and even with its imperfections, The Field Guide to a North American Teenager is an absolute delight to read. It is smart, snarky and flips so many tropes on their head which allows the reader to experience them in a new way. While some might claim that by being trope-y, a book will be inherently unoriginal but to those, I say, PICK UP A BOOK THAT EMPLOYS tropes well because The Field Guide to a North American Teenageris a perfect example of a book that is wonderfully trope-y and wonderfully original. Please read it.
Profile Image for Samantha (WLABB).
3,434 reviews234 followers
January 24, 2019
What happens when you take a hockey loving, black, French-Canadian boy and transplant him in Texas? You get a hilarious tale filled with some teen angst, hijinks, and even some personal growth.

• Pro: This book was hilarious! I love snark and sarcasm, and Norris spoke both fluently. I laughed so much and so often, and that is always a welcomed perk.

• Pro: The characters Philippe created to be part of Norris' circle was interesting and a lot more complex than Norris expected them to be. I really enjoyed getting to know them beyond their labels.

• Pro: And speaking of labels, Norris committed the ultimate crime by immediately placing every person he met in a "group", but what I enjoyed, was seeing him realize that each person was an individual, who went beyond the label, and it was an important turning point, when he started seeing them as more than a single term.

• Pro: The relationship between Norris and his mom was kind of special. They acted as team, yet his mother never played the role of friend, and always kept the appropriate parent-child balance in place.

• Con: Not going to lie, the ending was frustrating! Yes, it was realistic, but I would have liked a jump ahead, or maybe we will get a Field Guide Volume 2, because I really would like to see how the rest of high school went for Norris.

• Pro: I have been seeing a lot of people call Norris unlikable, but I liked him. He was a little bit jaded, angsty, and thought he knew it all, but I empathized with his situation. I did get to see glimpses of the Norris, who hid under all the cynicism, and he did experience growth by the end of the book, both positive things. I thought he was very real too. I worked in a high school for 12 years, and I definitely met a few Norrises over the course of my career.

• Pro: I adored the new friendships Norris made. Both Maddie and Liam stood out. They were delightful for very different reasons, but mostly because they offered something real to Norris and didn't allow him to get away with anything. A real friend keeps you in check.

Overall: A humorous look at high school through the lens of a newcomer featuring great banter, friendship, and hockey.

*ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.

Profile Image for Emma.
215 reviews119 followers
July 11, 2020
I enjoyed this so much more than I was anticipating! This was a super fun read, and I really liked (most) of the characters. It’s surprising to me that more people haven’t read this!

full review to come // 4 stars
Profile Image for George Ilsley.
Author 12 books229 followers
March 14, 2022
A Black French Canadian teenager has to move from Montreal to Austin, Texas with his mother, and is prepared to hate every minute of it! He's going to miss hockey, winter, and his best friend (gay of course).

Norris is the child of immigrants; his parents are from Haiti. He's a smart 16 year old, perhaps too smart—if that is even a thing. His retorts are sarcastic and scathing, evocative of the teen movies that are his cultural references, but this defensive behaviour pushes people away and prevents his true feelings from being expressed.

{Wow, I got all earnest there for a moment. Sarcasm is great, and snap judgements are always, ALWAYS, entertaining. There's nothing like a serving of snide to cleanse the emotional palate.}

I enjoyed reading this clever novel, but at times it felt too long, in the way that YA novels can over-explain things that younger readers need to know about. On the other hand, the language and wit assume that readers are insightful, and articulate. 4+ stars.
Profile Image for Cori Reed.
1,135 reviews379 followers
February 10, 2019
This was so much fun! If you love contemporary, but want something a little bit different, check this out!
Profile Image for Isabelle | Nine Tale Vixen.
2,037 reviews113 followers
August 12, 2020
content warnings:

Let's start with the positive: what I did love about this book is the rep. While I can't speak to the Black or Canadian rep, I really love that Norris and Aarti bond over having immigrant parents (Haitian and Indian, respectively) and not feeling like they belong among their classmates. Their relationships with their parents are closer than we often see in YA, which I appreciated. And there's a scene around the climax that really hit me hard: .

The main storyline is probably about what you'd expect, based on the synopsis and standard genre tropes. It was engaging enough, if not surprising, and I mostly enjoyed the little anthropological entries, , at the beginning of each chapter.

I think my biggest issue with the book is with Norris himself, specifically the fact that he never seems to make a good-faith effort to make things work or to actually change in response to a series of top-notch callouts. At first I was cautiously optimistic about him despite many reviews to the contrary, and I honestly wasn't too bothered by his antisocial behavior or his sulking — it was the judginess and self-righteousness that I found frustrating, and the fact that the ultimate lesson learned seems to be .

The love triangle I saw coming from a mile away, even if Norris didn't, and while its execution is pretty par for YA, I was not a fan. Both of the girls are YA archetypes with slight twists: . And it's bad enough when female characters/writers matter-of-factly pit girls against each other — whether by — but it's borderline romanticized here. (We do get to see that , though it hardly counters all the sexist remarks that continue through the end of the book.)

And seriously, is not the only way to confess your feelings, and . There's also an underlying message that friendship isn't as good as a romantic relationship, which is obviously not unique to this book but which I find absolutely exasperating.

So as YA contemporary novels go, it's fairly standard except for the ownvoices rep — which, to be clear, is still underrepresented in general! Thus I would encourage people to give this book a chance, because authors from marginalized communities deserve the chance tell these kinds of everyday stories too.

CONVERSION : 8.2 / 15 = 3 stars

Prose: 5 / 10
Characters & Relationships: 3 / 10
Emotional Impact: 6 / 10
Development / Flow: 5 / 10
Setting: 7 / 10

Diversity & Social Themes: 4 / 5
Originality / Trope Execution: 2 / 5
Profile Image for ivy francis.
548 reviews27 followers
May 7, 2020
Full review: https://bookpeopleteens.wordpress.com...


“‘I’m proud of you, Canada,’ Maddie said, watching him, a smile on her face.
‘Because I’m out here, socializing like a real live American boy?’ Norris snorted. ‘If this keeps going, I might buy a Chevy and take it to a levee, whatever that is.’”

Overall, The Field Guide to the American Teenager was an unexpected win in my book. While the moral of the story wasn’t too unique in the YA field, that made it no less important and heartfelt. The character of Norris Kaplan was fresh, layered, and thoroughly entertaining without being annoying, which is a delicate balance. Rating: four key lime pies/five

For fans of: Rayne & Delilah's Midnite Matinee by Jeff Zentner, Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi, Burn Book by Regina George
February 7, 2020
Austin, Texas, in present time

This was a really good “coming-of-age” story, with very interesting plot twists throughout. The author is spot-on with his descriptions of high school life, and Norris’s Field Notes at the beginning of each chapter are hilarious! Being a native Texan, I could also appreciate the passages about the oppressive summer heat! I found myself wondering if the Austin stores and restaurants mentioned actually exist, because I want to re-visit if they are!

Red Flags:
For the above mentioned reasons, I would have given this 4 stars. However, the very frequent vulgar language and scenes of underage drunkenness took away some of the enjoyment for me. I would recommend this for high schoolers and older only, with adult guidance.

Memorable Quotes:
(Pg. 3)-“Who decided to build a city here? What sick wagon of explorers stopped here and went: Guys, the surface of the sun is looking a little out of reach for the horses; let’s just settle here.”
(Pg.353)-“ It doesn’t matter if you make a mess. It matters if you fix it.”
Profile Image for Jay G.
1,230 reviews464 followers
June 4, 2019
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review*

Norris is a young black French-Canadian who recently left Montreal to move to Austin, Texas with his mother. He is not happy with the move, but makes a deal with his mom that he will give Texas a try. Upon arriving, Norris meets every high school stereotype you can think of and records it all in a notebook his guidance counselor gives him on his first day of school. Along the way, he meets a few friends and tries to win the heart of a girl.

This book was a cute, quick, coming of age story. I loved the humor and the Canadian jokes! For once, I was able to actually laugh along because I actually understood the jokes! Norris was so snarky and sarcastic and I couldn't help giggling at some of the banter he had with other characters. I loved the relationship Norris had with his mother, she was a big highlight for me in this book. I also loved the group of friends Norris came to know in Texas. Maddie and Liam were so sweet and caring and I loved learning more about them as the story progressed. I was not a fan of the love interest and definitely did not want Norris and her to get together... She played way to many mind games with him.

My biggest complaint for the book is the ending... IT WAS SO UNSATISFYING!!
Profile Image for Chessa.
720 reviews58 followers
February 27, 2019
I aggressively LOVED THIS. I laughed out loud so much you guys, my kids and cats took turns saying, “can u not?” with their eyeballs at me.

Norris is so snarky and guarded and wrapped up in himself and I just loved his entire unlikeable-but-actually-so-human-and-love-able teenage situation. His relationship with his parents felt so real, complications and all.

Have you ever felt like a sport was stalking you? This is like the third time in a year that hockey has featured heavily in something I’m consuming and it’s making me paranoid but also I don’t hate it, weirdly.

The romance felt pretty dang angsty authentic teen experience - I am usually really into a HEA but I am mollified by the unresolved-with-the-door-still-open ending here.

Anyway, I loved this and the author loves dogs so I feel like that’s really the only other thing I need to tell you in this review. Read it!
Profile Image for Kelli Gleiner.
Author 2 books10 followers
June 2, 2020
Norris is the sort of boy I’d like in high school: snarky, uninterested in the “cool kids,” and smart. As is the case with so many people I’ve known, he can’t turn off the smart-ass to see who his real friends are.
I can’t say that I liked how “prettily” the book wrapped up, but I enjoyed meeting Norris and watching him grow throughout the book.
His struggles/coming to terms with his dad was the strongest part of the book, in my opinion, and could have read more of that.
Profile Image for aileenlucia.
199 reviews60 followers
October 27, 2020
A cute and fun read! I was very happy with the girl he ended up liking and I really liked how he compared his American High School experience to movies and that it is not like that at all.
Profile Image for Aly.
2,615 reviews
March 25, 2019
This was pretty cute and fun. I liked having a male narrator and his take on America, having come from Haitian parents and born in Canada was funny and interesting. Each chapter begins with Norris's observations about teenage traditions or things Texans say or how cheerleaders are all named Maddie. Norris was cynical and didn't want to move with his mom to a new country, but as he began to make friends and participate in typical teen things, like prom, first job, navigating dating, he started to open up and was happier. This was sweet and sad and I enjoyed the narrator on the audio.
Profile Image for Zoe.
106 reviews
May 16, 2023
I truly cannot make this review without mocking the main character to shreds, because he was the most John Green-Perks of Being a Wallflower-"I'm not like other girls"-trenchcoat-wearing self-imposed loner I've ever come across. I'm quite certain this character gets off to the sound of his own desperately narcissistic inner monologue, which must make any sexual exploits he has quite unfortunate for the unlucky partner. What got me through reading his endless droll of cleverer-than-thou was the sheer opportunity it gave me to make fun of him. I'm actually a little surprised that this book was set in Texas and not Riverdale, because MC could don a beanie and start soliloquizing about how much of a weirdo he is without a second thought. And his character development was nonexistent—there's a conversation with a character MC has hurt with his actions, and the character ends up saying "oh! It's okay, you're just very true to yourself and I love being your friend." That's it. MC gets ARRESTED and goes to his room and a moment later everything is fine, because he's just so cool and quirky and Smart. At the end of the story, he proudly conspires to get a girl go to prom with him, despite the fact that he CRASHED her sister's WEDDING and assumed she was an idiot because she was a cheerleader. And the narration acts as if this is a plausible outcome!

Field Guide attempts to be a witty, cynical deconstruction of high school stereotypes, as if that idea is anywhere near revolutionary. The main character was so heavy-handed about typing everyone he met, and the big reveal of "OH! People actually AREN'T one-dimensional stereotypes! How SMART is this book!" felt like a three-year-old proudly telling his father that fish can't breathe in air. Unoriginality is not in itself bad, if the story is done well and with enough genuine care to create quality dynamics and plotlines. However, this book in particular was too engaged with patting itself on the back (or perhaps giving itself a cool, mysterious smirk perfectly fitting its loner hipster complex) to spend time being actually compelling.

In my opinion, to be genuinely enjoyable, any type of media needs to have some level of sincerity. The best deconstructions and critiques of genre stereotypes need to have some love for those genre stereotypes, because otherwise subversion looks smugly idiotic. Field Guide was too certain of its own cynical intelligence to be effective in any way. I felt like I was reading the book equivalent of a business/philosophy double major. No—I felt like I was reading the book equivalent of a business/philosophy double major getting off to his revolutionary, groundbreaking thesis about how people have—wait for it, he's a genius!—personalities.
Profile Image for Jennie Shaw.
311 reviews293 followers
January 19, 2019
I can't remember the last time I laughed my way through an entire book. Not just in the beginning, with humour petering out by the halfway point. Norris's pitch-perfect snark had me laughing my face off and while I could've flown through THE FIELD GUIDE, I didn't want to. It really is a rare reading experience to get end my day with a bout of laughter (this makes me sound kind of terrible because Norris really does have a sharp tongue and that's what made me laugh, but I like snark so) and I wanted to stretch it out. Also it had a coming-of-age-vibe, an ownvoices perspective, and the best dialogue I've ever read.

The. Actual. Best. Dialogue. I've. Ever. Read.

I have no idea how I'm going to paint this cover mani but I totally need to because every single person on the planet needs to read THE FIELD GUIDE and i need to scream about it more. Wish me luck. There's lots of words in this title in addition to the notebook set on top of a detailed background and I'm probably going to need some wine for this one.

Huge thanks to HCC Frenzy for an ARC!
Profile Image for Andrew.
2,032 reviews47 followers
October 12, 2021
So Ben Philippe has NAILED High School Melodrama/Teen Issues in High School!

Morris is a bi-racial dark-skinned teen from Canada who is uprooted by his recently divorced mom to Texas. Morris has seen all of the American movies and read everything about stereotypical High School experiences from movies.
His first few months prove that correctly:
-Befriending the "loner/stoner kid"
-Encountering Hairy Armpits, the schools' jock
-making enemies of the Cheerleading squad
-starting a hockey team
-ultimately, falling for the manic pixie photojournalist girl;
Despite his preconceived notions, Morris starts writing his thoughts in a journal and grows into a better individual, realizing life-facts about family, friends and relationships.

Ben Phillipe takes all of the tropes of High School social groups and turns them on their head. He keeps an even pacing, developing the characters more and more with each chapter, and providing just the right bit of sass and snarky behavior from the teens, which provide a delightful hilarity.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,602 reviews2,046 followers
April 5, 2019
I highly enjoyed this riff on the snarky teen protagonist. The Snarky Teen is basically a staple of YA fiction these days, always ready with the perfect quip or takedown, mercilessly judging the popular kids for mercilessly judging them, the sarcastic center of the universe that doesn't understand them. Except, as Philippe notes, that person is kind of the worst and is going to alienate a lot of people along the way.

It's a really solid approach to a YA novel, especially because the book itself grows and changes as you read it, just like Norris, its black French-Canadian protagonist. Nothing is going Norris's way at the beginning of the book. His parents have been divorced for a few years but his father has just moved to the other side of the country with his new wife and baby. Now his mother is moving him from Montreal to Austin, TX. Norris greets his new surroundings with hostility and you can't really blame him, it's not fun to undertake such a big move at 16. But Norris has promised his mother to make an effort and he does kind of, but to cope he keeps his "field guide" of snarky observations.

While the plot mostly sticks to reliable tropes, it's the way Norris himself is able to grow that is of such interest. The first part of the book seems just like any other but the reader (and eventually Norris himself) gets to see more and more how Norris's habits are self-sabotaging and defensive. It is the best of both worlds in a lot of ways, tropes for trope-lovers but the healthy dose of snark for people who like a vivid first person narrator.

The Austin setting never really comes together all that specifically besides a handful of references. Honestly I couldn't figure out where in the city Norris was supposed to be living besides somewhere vaguely Northwest-ish, but he seemed to go from one end of the city to another quickly and attends school with rich kids even though he lives in an apartment. Norris arrives in winter, which is certainly mild, but he seems to be constantly in overwhelming heat, and yeah I guess Austin winter is similar to Montreal summer but it's not 100 degrees yet? It was a little distracting to me how often the temperature came up. So I wouldn't put down the setting as one of its strengths.

I did the audiobook and liked it quite a lot, I'm always pleased when a male reader doesn't do annoying voices for teenage girls.
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