- Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle
The lights of Broadway have always been a beacon of hope for perpetual outcast Nate Foster, and when the creators of E.T.: The Musical announce an open casting call, eighth-grader Nate is certain that he has finally found a way to escape his provincial life for the big city. With the help of his pal and fellow show-tune aficionado, Libby, Nate devises a plan to make it to New York and back without having to alert his conservative parents, but things go awry when Nate gets a callback (he wasn’t prepared for actual success) and Libby has to cover for him back home. From his obsession with the first franchise restaurant he sees in New York (“the Cadillac of Applebee’s”) to his infectious enthusiasm for city-life (“A cab honks and then another one does . . . everything is so flipping jubilant here”), Nate is the quintessential starry-eyed small-town boy in the Big Apple. The outrageousness of his rookie mistakes as a newbie to both the concrete jungle (he asks a homeless woman to make change) and the competitive auditioning scene (he reads all the parts for his audition, making it an impromptu one-man show) are made additionally hilarious by his matter-of-fact, rapid-fire narration and endearing unawareness. Between the hijinks and the humor, however, Nate reveals himself to be a kid who accepts that he is a disappointment to his conventional family and yet still remains solidly himself, optimistically certain that there is a place for guys like him somewhere in the world. There’s plenty of substance to go along with the razzle-dazzle here, so sit back and enjoy the show.