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The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe
Young adult

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager


We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Ben Philippe, on your first book!

by Ben Philippe

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Quick take

A snarky Canadian navigates a Texas high school in this funny coming-of-age story about friendship and belonging.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Quirky


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Teen


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LOL


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Snarky



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. Be it 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. He even starts playing actual hockey with these Texans.

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.

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Check out a preview of The Field Guide to the North American Teenager.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager



IDENTIFYING CHARACTERISTICS: Abundance of food trucks, strip malls, and concert T-shirts worn by grown adults.

HABITAT: 104 degrees. Generally inhospitable to human life.

OTHER FACTS: Observed slogan “Welcome to Austin: Please Don’t Move Here.” Hypothesis: environmental insecurity masked as pride.

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 hospitable 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.

This was offensive to Norris on multiple levels. Specifically, three:

1. The white-rimmed navy C with an H in its mouth left no doubt to the team—especially against the red of the worn-out shirt.

2. These people were way too comfortable gawking at a teenager’s chest in public.

3. The Habs—or Canadiens of Montreal—were an iconic, nay, historic team. These people ought to be ashamed of their ignorance.

As Norris had learned over these past few hours, one of the ways in which Airport People interacted was by recognizing each other’s self-branding. College shirts, home state visors, high school rings. He’d witnessed nods of approval, high fives, and fist bumps occur without the two parties even slowing down from their respective paths. His mother, Judith, was less skeptical.

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Why I love it

At least half a dozen people told me I had to read this book before a copy landed on my desk, but little did any of them know that I was already predisposed to like it. It takes place in Austin, Texas, where I went to college. Its inclusion of teenage archetypes like cheerleaders, jocks, and manic pixie dream girls evokes popular high school comedies like Mean Girls and 10 Things I Hate About You. And most importantly, it’s about a snarky teen who uses humor to distract himself from the fact that he’s lacking in social skills—that was me! What can I say, I was excited.

Meet Norris, a teenager who suddenly finds himself in Austin in the autumn of his high school career. From the get-go, he stands out: he’s a black French Canadian with a passion for ice hockey—a sport his new Sun Belt comrades know little about—and he’s got a rude sense of humor that doesn’t win him any friends. To pass the time until he can escape back to Montreal, Norris logs attributes of high school life that he encounters—from loners and absentee dads to male bonding and drunk friends—and gradually, begrudgingly, begins to find his place.

What do I like about this book? It shows that hardly anything in life is cut and dry. Norris is cheeky and sweet. Popular kids can be jerks and good people. And uprooting your whole life and starting anew is hard … but it can also be well-worth it. Hope you dig this read.

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Member ratings (393)

  • Madi D.

    Kyle, TX

    This was such a sweet memoriam to high school especially as some who went to high school in Texas. I loved the altered perspective of an immigrant experiencing all the “American” things we all see.

  • Alexa M.

    Starke, FL

    As a teacher, I got such a kick out of this teen narrator who just wants to fit in, go home, tell everyone to piss off, and 50 other things all at once. I've seen the same in every student!

  • Cassondra M.

    Seneca, SC

    I love Philippe's style of writing. I found myself sharing bits of this story with others just because of the way that the story is written. It's fresh, witty, and extremely entertaining!

  • Julie E.

    Fort Wayne, IN

    Realistic characters, funny dialogue, endearing story. This book has it all! Norris may be a bit hard to deal with at first but remember, he is a teenager who is still learning and growing.

  • Bobby T.

    Springfield, IL

    This is a great book with a great story! A lot of the things in this book remind me of when I was in high school. The characters and humor throughout the book is amazing. Highly recommend!

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