Thursday, October 9, 2014

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

Nate Foster, 13, is back and now, he's in a Broadway show.  As you may or may not remember, in Better Nate Than Ever, Nate from Jankburg PA took a Greyhound bus to New York City one night, unbeknownst to his parents, and auditioned for a part in E.T., the Musical.  Well, everything that could go wrong did go wrong but in the end Nate manages to land himself an small part playing Alien #7, but he's also the understudy for the part of ET.  Now,  he's living in Queens with his Aunt Heidi and the two are commuting on the #7 subway to rehearsals everyday.

When Five, Six, Seven, Nate! begins, it is only 5 weeks to the first preview of E.T., the Musical.  Right off the bat, on the first day of rehearsals, Nate realizes he is not quite the polished, professionally trained actor his fellow cast-mates are and it doesn't help that the director, a former video game director, keeps calling him Jake.

Or that his hometown rival, Jordan Rylance who plays Elliot, snarkily grunts at him…And this is also when Nate discovers that he is actually the understudy's understudy for the role of E.T.

Not only that, but as rehearsals get underway, it also becomes clear that some of the complicated dance moves are a little much for short, somewhat pudgy Nate, who must now come in ever earlier for extra sessions with the play's choreographer.

But as rehersals continue, and the part of Alien #7 is cut more and more, Nate begins makes friends with most of the other kids, even going to lunch with them (something that never happened back home).  Then, he overhears a conversation from a bathroom stall that begins to put a crack in the perfect picture Nate had always imagined was Jordan Rylance's life.  But, soon Nate even discovers he has a secret admirer who keeps leaving little things for him, and who he decides is Genna, the girl playing Gertie.  Let's just say, Nate is in for a big surprise here.

But his best on-set friend ends up being Ascella, a very short, very outspoken older woman with whom Nate shares mani/pedis in return for reading lines with her, which results in Nate pretty much memorizing the entire play.

But, throughout rehearsals, with all kinds of problems cropping up, the Broadway buzz is that E.T, the Musical is in jeopardy of never happening.  Will circumstances beyond Nate's control bring his dream to a crashing end?

Meanwhile, his best-back-in-Jankburg friend and coach Libby is still taking care of her mother, who has been battling cancer for quite a while.  Now, with Nate in NYC involved in their shared dream of a Broadway show, Libby seems to be drifting away from Nate.  Could that really be possible, after all they've been through together?

I loved Better Nate Than Ever! and was really looking forward to the sequel.  And Five, Six, Seven, Nate! doesn't disappoint.  Nate is still the same somewhat clumsy, insecure, witty kid he was in the first novel.  He is even still substituting Broadway flops for curse words, though not as much as in the first book.

If Better Nate Than Ever! and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! were real Broadway shows, I would give Tim Federle a standing ovation.  First, I love going to the theater, but really don't know much about the behind the scenes life of a play.  The casting, the rehearsal, the artistic clashes, the EGOS, none of that is seen onstage, so Federle has given his readers a little inside look at how things happen.  Sure, there are exaggerations for the sake of humor/drama, but, I am told, he isn't too far off the mark.

Second, Federle gives us a less than perfect protagonist, someone that readers, even if they couldn't care less about the theater,  can identify with and root for.  Nate is short, a little overweight, not a professionally trained child actor, a theater geek who was bullied for it in Jankburg, but a loyal friend who finds a sort of home on Broadway and begins to come into his own.

But the two things that are addressed somewhat in both Nate novels are the parents lack of interest in their son and Nate's sexual identity.  Nate's parents just are not there for him.  When he calls his mom's flower shop to send flowers to Libby, his father makes him pay for them out of his first paycheck.  And, as Nate points out, his father may never miss one of his brother's sporting events, but neither of Nate's parents are there for opening night.  Sadly, I remember from my classroom teaching days that there are kids with parents who are just as disinterested or too busy with other things to be involved in the lives of their children.

In Better Nate Than Ever!, Federle introduced Nate beginning to think about his sexuality.  The implication is the Nate is probably gay.  Nate's sexuality is explored more in this novel, but it is done very very much the way things are at 13 - more crushy than anything.  Kids who are thinking they may be gay will relate to some of what happens, kids who are thinking they are straight, will surprisingly find they can also relate to some of it.  In other words, a crush is a crush and Federle handles it beautifully.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was a review copy from the publisher


  1. Hi Alex, this sounds great. I love the setting, and the characters sound interesting. I’ve just added it to my tbr list. Thanks for another excellent review.

  2. This sounds like a great series. Your review is fantastic and my interest is piqued. I will certainly be checking these books out. Thanks for sharing!


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