LAWLESS SPACES by Corey Ann Haydu (Simon & Schuster; $18.99, Ages 14 and up)…
Felton Reinstein is many things – the top high school recruit in Wisconsin, squirrel-nut brain, narcissist, the kid who found his dad hanging in the garage and big brother to Andrew. With all of that going on Felton was bound to fumble at something – turns out it’s his relationships. After becoming a star football player in Stupid Fast, Felton became so caught up with his newfound fame and the pressures of getting a college scholarship that he began to ignore everyone. He forgot his best friend Gus’ birthday, wouldn’t return calls and belittled his younger brother Andrew’s musical talents and concerns. As a result, Gus turns against him and Andrew concocts an elaborate ruse in the form of a made up orchestra camp to escape Felton and meet their dad’s family for the first time. Journey along with Felton in planes, cars and some seriously gross Greyhound buses from Wisconsin to Florida as he searches for Andrew, makes amends with Gus, and struggles to figure out how his actions and inactions cause pain with the help of a few long lost family members.
At its core, Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach, is a character study of Felton Reinstein. Told in a series of unshowy, earnest journal entries to Felton’s possibly-ex-girlfriend Aleah, Felton comes across as both a dumb jock and complex person with a tortured past. Felton is genuine, self-reflective and charming in his honesty, even when he is being a narcissistic gorilla. His tender heart and great juvenile sense of humor repeatedly left me in tears and giggle fits.
I highly recommend Nothing Special to anyone, but especially encourage boys and reluctant readers to pick it up. It won’t disappoint. Ages 12 and up.