My name is Felton Reinstein, which is not a fast name. But last November, my voice finally dropped and I grew all this hair and I got stupid fast. Fast like a donkey. Zing!
Now they want me, the guy they used to call Squirrel Nut, to try out for the football team. With the jocks. But will that fix my mom? Make my brother stop dressing like a pirate? Most importantly, will it get me girls -- especially Aleah?
So I train. And I run. And I sneak off to Aleah's house in the night. But deep down I know I can't run forever. And I wonder what will happen when I finally have to stop.
Felton's growing up. He's always been given the unfortunate nickname of "Squirrel Nuts", but all of a sudden he's growing. He's shot up a few feet, his voice has deepened, hair has started to grow all around his body. As he's grown, his talent for athlethics has grown: he's amazingly fast, "stupid fast". The football coaches are impressed and want him on their teams, but Felton's not even sure he wants to play football. He just wants to run, run away from his family situation and run towards freedom and towards relationships (hopefully with the pretty piano player, Aleah).
This is a book that no doubt has oodles of boy appeal. The appeal is basically dripping everywhere, from the cover to the blurb to the story itself. I am not a boy, obviously, and I am not a football player. Originally I had my doubts about the book, as it seemed to be so perfectly marketed towards boys and out of my range. But the good reviews for Stupid Fast kept piping up, and it won a Cyblis in Young Adult Fiction last year. And I can understand the hype perfectly.
This book, while being marketed to boys for sure, is a very impressive read that I think girls will also read and enjoy.
Some male main characters in YA tend to be unrealistic; they're too funny or they make too many crude jokes/think of inappropriate topics, etc. There are lovely boys, as well, but in many stories where the male character is the central character (not a supporting character) the humor is amped up a thousand times and the boy starts to feel unrealistic. This is not the case here. Felton is humorous, for sure; he cracks jokes and he can be crude at times. But he's also more than just jokes and inappropriate humor: he's sensitive and is a three-dimensional main character, acting like a normal boy with feelings and emotions. And on the other end, he's not too sensitive and emotional, making for a relatable character.
I really liked the perspective between Felton and Aleah's relationship. There's no instalove here, simply a slow relationship that grows. Felton admires Aleah, for her impressive piano playing, but at the same time he's a bit afraid of her, as they are in two completely different social groups. But slowly the two become friends with crushes on each other and then they start to date. It's a really sweet and cute subplot and I really enjoyed the romance. Their relationship when the book ends (after a few events have occurred to distance them from each other) is also very realistic and sweet.
And the family story! So many times we complain about parents in YA, how they've simply been killed off or are barely present. The family story in Stupid Fast is very strong and very sweet, with a realistic portrayal of mental illness. The story is complex and it's a fun one to discover so I'll simply explain the basics: Felton lives with his mother, Jerri, who married young and has lately fallen into a descent of confusion, and his younger brother Andrew, who is a piano player like Aleah. The story is so rich and complex and so, so realistic.
Herbach's writing is strong as well. He sounds like a teen, using slang and swear words and quick, fluid descriptions. His writing is easy to read and to the point; it's sparse but still rich and full. And best of all, it sounds like a boy.
If there is one thing that I disliked about this book, one thing that made me bump the book down .5 stars, was that at the beginning I felt disoriented. For about the first five chapters, I felt confused and I felt like the book was just another male-oriented book I would dislike. Obviously as I continued, I started to love the book. But this original issue made me drop the book down just a tiny bit.
Stupid Fast is a clever, original book that I really adored. It'll be perfect for both boys and girls alike. I'm so excited it won the Cyblis; hopefully more people will be interested in this fantastic, quick read. And I can't wait to read the companion novel, again featuring Felton.
Four point five stars.