Tremendous Things

Tremendous Things
Age Range
Release Date
May 25, 2021
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At the start of ninth grade, Wilbur Nuñez-Knopf is hoping for a fresh start. But he just can't live down a deeply humiliating moment from two years ago that's followed him to high school. His good friend Alex has stuck by him, but Alex has started dating Fabrizio and he doesn't have much time to hang out. Luckily, Wil can still confide in his elderly neighbor, Sal. But he longs to have a special someone of his own. When the school band does an exchange with students from Paris, a girl named Charlie captures Wilbur's heart. But his feelings aren't reciprocated. So Alex, Fabrizio, and Sal join forces to build Wil's confidence in the hope that he can impress Charlie when they go to Paris. Maybe, just maybe, Wilbur will find a new defining moment in the City of Love.

Editor review

1 review
Life Lessons with Triangle
Overall rating
Writing Style
Wilbur lives a comfortable, if somewhat lonely, life in Toronto with his two mothers. He was home schooled for a while, and his introduction to middle school was so rocky that he still feels the reverberations at 14, especially from his nemesis, Tyler. Luckily, he has a good friend in Alex, although now that Alex has found a boyfriend, Fabrizio, the two don't hang out as much. Sal, his elderly next door neighbor, might be his best friend, and imparts a lot of wisdom about life, and there's his very loyal chihuahua-dachshund mix dog, Templeton. (Wilbur is a big fan of the book Charlotte's Web.) To complicate matters, his mothers are both having troubles with employment, and worry about meeting their bills. Wilbur works at a fast food job, where he doesn't get a lot of pay but keeps getting "promotions", and plans to use the money from that to pay for a class trip to Paris, where the students will stay with host families. The trip seems like it might be too expensive, but when Wilbur hosts his French student, Charlie, the trip seems imperative. Charlie ends up being a girl, and an exuberant one at that. She loves Wilbur's mothers, and finds Wilbur to be quite amusing. She doesn't even mind Templeton. Wilbur has quite a crush on her, so is devastated when he sees her kissing Tyler right before she goes back to France. Determined to be a changed man by the time he visits her country, Wilbur takes up running with Alex, takes fashion tips from Fabrizio, and listens to Sal's wisdom. He even gets up enough courage to ask for a raise and to fire a troublesome coworker, although he ends up getting fired instead. The trip to France goes well, although perhaps not in ways that Wilbur suspects, but his return to Canada is greeted with sad news. Will Wilbur be able to maintain his confidence and keep muddling through high school with a little more success?
Good Points
It is very difficult to find humorous, realistic fiction for high school boys, and this has the same mix of laughs and heart that Sonnenblick's Notes from the Midnight Driver has. (Of course, their the older friend is named Sol!) While this had a few too much information about Wilbur and his Speedo for my taste, I'm sure that the target demographic will find these inclusions to be hilarious!

Even though there isn't a lot that happens, this book is a quick read that pulled me in right away. Wilbur hasn't had an easy life at school, and struggles socially, but still maintains a positive attitude. He has realistic struggles maintaining his friendship with Alex once Fabrizio enters the picture, and feels that he won't have a chance with Charlie but makes an attempt anyway. I especially appreciated that he had listened to all of his mothers' lectures about asking before kissing a girl and getting "enthusiastic consent"!

While Wilbur's attempts to lose weight and shed his gray sweatshirt and saggy beige pants isn't really on trend, it is something that many high school students think about. He didn't have the healthiest lifestyle, so it's good to see him embracing some physical exercise and better food choices. I loved that Sal had Mad Men era clothing tucked away that Wilbur and his friends managed to style into a modern look.

Nielsen does a great job with older middle grade or younger Young Adult characters, which is evident in We Are All Made of Molecules or No Fixed Address. This is a great title for not only fans of Sonnenblick, but teen readers who want an engaging story that doesn't necessarily include sports, dragons, or space aliens!
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