Release date: June 2011
Genre: Comedy / Contemporary YA / Bildungsroman
Target audience: 12+
US Publisher: Sourcebooks
Stupid Fast is part situation comedy and part coming-of-age story. It’s set in a small town in Wisconsin and is one teenager’s journey to find out who he is and who he wants to be.
Felton Reinstein is weird. At least he thinks he’s weird. It’s the start of the summer and he’s found out his best friend Gus is going to Venezuela with his mum for the holiday. So Felton has no one else to hang out with – all of the rest of his classmates are jerks or jocks and he wants nothing to do with them. Felton is a dork and hates that the “honkies” call him either Rein Stone or squirrel nuts. But Felton has been undergoing a physical transformation – he’s been growing and eating, eating and growing – and now he’s stupid fast. His coach notices he sudden talent for speed in the physical fitness test and suddenly, everyone is interested in Felton.
But things aren’t so straightforward; Felton is not the most socially adept person. He doesn’t respond well to being the centre of attention. As a child, he had panic attacks. But the saddest thing is that they originated from a trauma in his life. He discovered his dad’s body after he’d committed suicide. Felton will tell you this isn’t a dark story and it isn’t; this is a very daft and funny story. But it doesn’t change the fact that beneath all the humour, Stupid Fast explores challenging issues faced by contemporary teens.
Felton is highly reflective. I’ve never known a teen book character to think so much. Often what we do is out of impulse – and there is much impulsiveness from Felton – but there is also his inner voice analysing the things he says, things other people say and generally offering paranoid reflections on life. Felton wants to hibernate all Summer and his mum is worried about him. The beginning of the story sees them increasingly in conflict. He doesn’t get what her problem is. She forces him to take up Gus’s paper round and that’s when Felton’s motivation changes. A beautiful, talented piano-playing has girl moved into Gus’s house for the summer. Suddenly, he wants to be an athlete. He wants to be popular and not be the loser guy.
Felton explores this new identity and what follows is a coming-of-age novel. But Felton’s challenges lie in his home life. The issue of his father’s suicide has never been discussed. His 13 year old brother Andrew is going all out to get their mum to open up. But she retreats to her room and leaves the boys to fend for themselves. With everything falling apart at home, Felton keeps out of the house and puts all his energies into his running. But of course, you can’t hide from your problems forever, especially, when your little brother needs you.
I really loved the relationship between Felton and Andrew. It had all the expected drama of siblings but there was a believable bond between them. The characterisation in this book is wonderful. The odd behaviours that Felton and Andrew exhibit when emotionally abandoned by their mum are quirky and emotive. I actually had tears in my eyes reading the final chapters and that was not at all what I expected when I started reading this book. It’s not about sport or American football (you might think that from the cover); it’s more about our perceptions of these concepts. There is the stereotype of the “jock” and the “nerd” and this book is really about how we are so much more than labels and can be many different things at the same time. It’s about growing into yourself (in Felton’s case literally) as well as the importance of family and having the chance to experience a proper childhood. It’s heart-warming and touching. Full of witty dialogue, comic scenarios and compelling action Stupid Fast is an excellent read.
Recommended for fans of:
· Catch by Will Leitch
· Swim the Fly by Don Calame
Source: Imported copy, purchased from Foyles