Middle school is not an easy place for kids to navigate. Changing social dynamics, self-esteem issues, and frustrations about independence often cloud young teens’ minds. One of the best ways to get around these issues is to stay focused on a goal.
Author Tim Federle delivers this message succinctly with his 2013 novel, “Better Nate Than Ever”. The protagonist, Nate Foster, is a kid who isn’t sure about his place in society. He grows up in a small Pennsylvania town where he feels there aren’t many opportunities for him. Despite the setbacks and demotivation, Nate keeps his ambitions intact. This story has made such an impact that it’s now on its way to Disney+ as a musical comedy.
Nate’s family holds religion and sports in high regard, but they don’t care for his interest in theatre. On the contrary, Nate’s parents want him to pursue soccer and become a star athlete like his brother, which Nate has no interest in. “Better Nate Than Ever” demonstrates how parents often project their own self-serving desires on their kids without paying any mind to what their kids want.
Nate doesn’t just have trouble fitting in in his family; he has similar problems at his school. Many of Nate’s classmates don’t understand him and call him derogatory slurs. Nate is forced to come to terms with the fact that he’s different from most kids in his hometown, and he has little sense of belonging.
The one person Nate can confide in is his best friend, Libby. Libby is fairly wise and grounded for her age, so she acts as a sort of mentor to Nate during his struggles. She also shares his interest in theatre. Soon enough, the pair decides to leave town and head to New York City so Nate can audition for Broadway.
Before leaving, Nate steals his mother’s ATM card and a fake ID that his brother was using. He regrets this later, but he knows he’ll need these items in order to audition at Broadway. Nate and Libby have to jump through many hoops in their journey, making for some funny situations. When they make it to Broadway, Nate’s auditioning doesn’t go smoothly at first. However, he stays committed and doesn’t let his confidence issues stop him.
Nate’s story can inspire any teen who feels out of place in school or at home. The central message is that uniqueness pays off in the end. All it takes is some patience and diligence.