Nate Expectations

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Nate Expectations Book Poster Image
Theater kid blossoms in new role in sweet homecoming tale.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Production of Great Expectations describes characters and some of the plot. Students take creative approaches to teacher's assignments. Characters mention several Broadway musicals including Rent, Evita, and Cabaret.

Positive Messages

Strong messages about authenticity and treating yourself with love, kindness, and respect. Lousy things happen and you can't control many things going on in your life, but you can learn and grow and move on. Hard times aren't forever -- things get better. Sometimes you need to close the door on broken relationships or painful chapters so you can greet your future. When people who feel like misfits come together, they create a space where they fit in just fine. Your most interesting story is your truest one.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Nate, who knows what it's like to feel like an outsider, welcomes everyone to participate in his musical. He appreciates being surprised by others and discovering their charms and talents, and he's a good teacher. Libby is frank and honest, holding Nate accountable and encouraging his best attributes. Nate's parents can be distant and somewhat aloof, but they connect with their son in deeply meaningful ways. Other adults at school -- notably a PE coach and a teacher -- encourage Nate in unexpected ways.

Violence
Sex

Mentions of boys kissing. Main character wishes for modest physical affection and has regrets about his first kiss.

Language

Some crude language: "boob," "fag," "butt." Two friends use the names of failed musicals as stand-ins for curse words.

Consumerism

Abundant mentions of digital media and devices (YouTube, FaceTime, Netflix, iPhones, Instagram, HBO Go, Hulu, Wikipedia), snack foods (Popsicle, Gatorade, Diet Coke, Mountain Dew, Snickers, Funyuns, Starburst, Capri Suns, Sunny D, Rice Krispies), retail and food chains (Wendy's, Domino's, Michael's, Home Depot, 7-Eleven, Auntie Anne's Pretzels, Ikea, American Eagle), TV shows and movies (Star Trek, Titanic, The Bachelor), cars (BMW, Kia, Porsche), and a few other branded products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Nate Expectations is Tim Federle's third and final book about a small-town boy with Broadway dreams. The triology started with (Better Nate Than Ever). Now 14, Nate Foster has to leave New York City and return to a family and community where he feels he doesn't belong. Nate's parents are emotionally distant, and Nate turns to his friend Libby for support. Nate has a secret relationship with another boy -- there's a little talk of kissing but mostly a lot of FaceTime -- but hasn't come out to his family. As he adjusts to his hometown high school, Nate helps build a supportive community and safe space by treating classmates with kindness and generosity.

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What's the story?

NATE EXPECTATIONS opens with crushing disappointment for 14-year-old Nate Foster. E.T.: The Musical closes abruptly and puts him out of work. He has to trade his dream life on Broadway for high school in Pennsylvania -- and make do with FaceTime instead of behind-the-scenes kisses with his boyfriend. Nate dreads going home, but he's surprised to find he's admired as a minor celebrity. Even better, he gets to work with his best friend, Libby, turning Great Expectations into a musical for an English project. Nate starts to feel he's finding his place in school. Then his boyfriend ghosts him, and Nate feels stuck in a role that makes him painfully unhappy.

Is it any good?

Nate Foster takes his final bow with a flourish in this hugely satisfying end to Tim Federle's sweet and funny trilogy, featuring a musical-loving teen as he's coming out and coming into his own. In Nate Expectations, Nate's grown more confident and self-assured. He's less buffeted by ups and downs, learning that even the bleakest situations aren't forever -- things get better. The shiny optimism may be more hopeful than realistic: The bullies who tormented Nate are pretty much gone, his parents make clear how much they love him, he moves smoothly from one crush to the next. But it's hard to find much fault with such an endearing character, shining especially brightly in the company of his loyal, smart friend Libby. Federle keeps the quips coming a mile a minute and draws on his own career highs and lows -- including a musical Tuck Everlasting -- for a story theater kids can cherish.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how hard it is for Nate to let go of his crush in Nate Expectations. Have you tried to salvage a failing relationship? Why do you think it's hard to let go?

  • What does Mr. English mean when he talks about picking your own birthday? What would you choose as your birthday?

  • What makes Nate successful as a director?

Book details

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