Nothing Special by Geoff Herbach

27 07 2012



Last year, I read and reviewed Geoff Herbach’s debut novel, Stupid Fast, and loved it — I loved the characters, the writing, and the voice. When I heard that there would be a second novel, I was beyond excited. I’m happy to say that the 2nd book in this series (is it a series? I say yes) is just as good.

In Stupid Fast, we met Felton Reinstein, a loner turned jock, and his family — his crazy mother Jerri and  his weird brother Andrew.  In Nothing Special, Felton returns, and he’s the one that narrates the story, but Andrew is the one that really takes full front. He’s the loner now, the quiet one. He loves to play the violin and he loves his family, going as far as to write a blog about his brother’s achievements. But he feels lost and distanced in his family, and so Andrew takes off. He says he’s off to orchestra camp, and Jerri, who’s always a little confused, agrees, and Andrew takes off on a road trip and disappears. Felton’s having his own issues too — he’s worried about the pressure on him from coaches, he doesn’t know what his future is, and he feels like a douchebag all the time. When Andrew disappears, he heads off to find him, crafting a few lies. The caveat: he’s going with his ex- best friend. And the other problem: he has no idea what he’s doing.

This book focuses a lot more on Andrew, like I mentioned. We get to learn more about him, his ideas and opinions, what he thinks of their screwed up family. What’s great about this is that the reader is like Felton: we like Andrew, but we’re sort of distanced from him. We have to go along with Felton, rediscovering his brother.

There’s another pretty cool element of style in this story. Andrew’s heading towards Florida, and so half of the story is Felton finding him. The other half is Felton writing the story of the trip to find him while on another road trip, leaving readers wondering where he’s going, and adding to the suspense.

Herbach’s writing and voice are still top notch. Felton sounds just like a guy, and his voice carries off the page, showing us every inch of himself, his worries, fears, and jokes. The rest of the characters are just as well-developed and strong, and Herbach explores more themes in this story in great depth; the instances of family, how a family responds after a suicide, and how brothers behave and act around one another, and what they don’t tell each other.

If there are any issues with the story, I can see the complaint that Felton’s family members are just too quicky. But at the same time, most families are quirky and different, so there’s a bit of realism there. Otherwise, though, I found the story to be almost perfect. It’s a wonderful, charming story about realistic characters, and Herbach is definitely one of my new favorite authors of contemporary fiction. Fans of the first book, as well as fans of authors like Chris Crutcher, will enjoy these novels.

And — and this is the best part! Recently Sourcebooks (the publisher of the novels) announced that there will be a THIRD Felton book, about his senior year of high school, out in 2013. So even more Felton = awesomeness. And after this series is complete, I will surely look for whatever else Herbach publishes.