Books·Canadian

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

A novel by Ben Philippe.

Ben Philippe

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don't bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it's time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris… like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life — along with the people who have found their way into his heart. (From HarperCollins)

Why Ben Philippe wrote The Field Guide to the North American Teenager

"A lot of the details from the book are lifted from my life. Norris Kaplan is a black French Canadian; I'm a black French Canadian. He moves to Texas and hates it; I moved to Texas and hated it. Although Norris moved to Texas for high school and I lived there for graduate school, the broad strokes of Norris are very much lifted from my life. I wrote him as a superpowered version of me: Norris says and does whatever he thinks. I never did, as I was too worried about everyone was thinking about me at school. But he loves poking the bear.

It was an interesting teenage anxiety — do you hang out with your own 'kind' or do you follow your own interests?- Ben Philippe

 "It was an interesting teenage anxiety — do you hang out with your own 'kind' or do you follow your own interests? That was my black Canadian identity and what I write about in the book."

Read more in his interview with CBC Books.

From the book

Twenty-three minutes after landing at the Austin airport, Norris Kaplan could confirm that life in Austin, Texas, really did come with "a unique flavor," as had been aggressively promised by all his mother's tourism pamphlets. Unfortunately for Norris, and just as he'd predicted, none of this flavor, tang, zest, piquancy, whatever you might call it, was hospital to your average Canadian.

No, to your average Canadian — black French Canadian no less — Austin, Texas, blew baby chunks.

From the moment he left Montreal, people had been squinting at Norris's T-shirt. Only one little kid, back at their first layover at JFK, had appeared to approve of the insignia, giving Norris a big grin. Since then, it had been a sea of neckbeards whose glances went from confused to hostile at the fact that a sports team logo had stumped them.


From The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe ©2019. Published by HarperCollins.

 

 

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