Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: Geoff Herbach’s Felton Reinstein Trilogy: STUPID FAST, NOTHING SPECIAL, and I’M WITH STUPID

Okay, let’s get to it--Geoff Herbach, the author of the three novels making up the Felton Reinstein Trilogy, is amazing.

Wait, I jumped the gun there.  First, I guess you should know the set-up, which is this:  Felton Reinstein, one time high school loser, goes through a massive growth spurt at the end of his sophomore year and suddenly is incredibly fast.  Like stupid fast, hence the title of the first novel.  Now, the jocks who once tortured him want him on their teams, girls are actually talking to him, and he’s left confusingly drifting between the world of anonymity he once knew and a world where the spotlight is on him.  (Or something like that, I’m pretty much terrible at writing summaries, give me a break.)

So you’re probably thinking like I was, “Oh, so these are YA sports novels?”

But no.  And this is why Herbach is amazing.  They're sports novels in that Felton plays football, runs track, and becomes friends with other athletes, but to call it a sports novel, well, that diminishes them. These are books about family relationships, the search for identity, and how being a teenager is confusing and confounding.  Think Chris Crutcher (probably the highest compliment I can give)--sports are the set-up, but it’s more about the people.

Oh, and the novels are all absolutely hilarious, and makes me insanely jealous as a writer.  See, when I started STUPID FAST, I thought it was going to be about Felton becoming an athlete and the football games and whatnot.  But by chapter two or three, it was this other thing entirely.  And you just go with it because Felton is awesome, his struggles are real, and Herbach is a damn funny writer.  He does the same thing in NOTHING SPECIAL.  I went in expecting it to be about Felton’s football season, but no, again Herbach makes it about something else entirely, something that's so much more fulfilling than it would have been if he’d focused on the sports.  I guess that’s where Herbach is one of my new favorites--he understands it’s about character.  Felton, his mom, Andrew (his brother), Gus (his best friend)…all of them read like real people with real lives and real problems, which is pretty much the goal any novelist should have.

So yeah, get these novels.  Now.  They’re fast, funny, touching, and honest.   I came to these novels at the right time, just when I was struggling to figure out how to approach my next novel.  I got fifty pages into STUPID FAST and realized, “THIS is how you do it.  THIS is what I want to be able to do.”  I guess I owe Herbach a drink for that.

And in the spirit of honesty, no, I haven’t read I’M WITH STUPID yet.  I’ll start that today.  But I’m pretty darn confident in recommending the trilogy without having read the last one.  Herbach is that strong of a writer,  no Godfather III/Hangover 3/Spiderman 3 worries here.


TL;DR: I’m terrible at reviews, but the Felton Reinstein Trilogy is amazing and if there was any justice in the world Geoff Herbach would be on the NYT Best Sellers List.

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