Cover Image: Tremendous Things

Tremendous Things

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Member Reviews

An absolute must read, “Tremendous Things” is a story filled to the brim with lovable characters, authentic adolescent experiences and a truly heartwarming tone.

Main character Wilbur is a standout amongst the plethora of YA archetypes thrown readers way.  He is a beautifully sensitive young man navigating life in wonderfully quirky ways that will lead straight to an audiences heart.

The friendship between Wilbur and Sal is, without a doubt, one of the best things about this book (amongst so many other delights).  Every scene they share is spectacular and I suspect I am not alone in wanting Sal to have his own book telling the story of his adolescence and time before Wilbur.

With LGBTQ representation in both Wilburs’ friends and family, “Tremendous Things” is literally packed from cover to cover with equitable content that reads so very genuine and real.  Another spectacular YA novel from Canadian author Susin Nielsen that offers equal doses of humour and heartbreak.

Sincere thanks to Penguin a teen Canada and Netgalley for this advanced readers copy.
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Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. It will be released May 25, 2021 by Penguin Teen.
This book is for everyone who has had that defining moment, that episode of utter humiliation that changes their lives for part of their life. I've got at least one of my own and bet you do too. This is about how, with a little humour and help from friends, you can rise above it. 

Wilbur Nuñez-Knopf lives with his two moms, Mup and Mum. Until grade seven he was homeschooled. His first day in public school ended up in disaster. Their teacher, Mr Markowitz, asked students to write a letter to themselves that he would return to them the day they graduated high school. Wilbur wrote honestly about his goals and dreams. Mr Markowitz accidently dropped the letter while taking it to the school's time capsule. It was picked up by the school bully, Tyler Kertz, and posted online.

Wilbur calls that his defining moment. Two years later, he tries his best to stay under the radar of everyone, especially Tyler, who hasn't let up on the name calling and snarky remarks. 

While most people avoid him, Wilbur has a couple of best friends. Sal is Wilbur's 86 year old next door neighbour. Alex has been his friend since grade 7. Being one of the queer kids makes him an outsider too. Wilbur writes poetry and Alex sets it to music. 

Wilbur's family struggles to make ends meet. Mup works a number of part time jobs while Mum tries to build a career as an actor and refurbishes old furniture to sell. Wilbur has a part time job at a Submarine Sandwich shop. When the school band ends up doing an exchange with a French school group, finding the money is a serious issue. It isn't a problem right away though because the French contingent is coming to Canada first. 

Wilbur's billet, Charlie, turns out to be a girl instead of a boy. Charlie is independent, smart and very classy. Wilbur ends up with a huge crush on her. At a dance at the end of the visit, she ends up making out with Tyler. It isn't that she likes him, she just doesn't like Wilbur in that way.

Mortified and heartbroken, Wilbur decides not to go to France. Thankfully, Sal, Alex, and Fabrizio, Alex's boyfriend, stage an intervention. What follows is like an episode from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. They revamp his wardrobe, get him repeating affirmations and improving his French. Alex and Wilbur take up running. In the process of all this Alex and Wilbur address issues between the two of them, and Alex becomes friends with Fabrizio.

Wilbur works extra shifts to make extra money to cover the cost of the trip to France. His boss made him shift supervisor rather than increase his salary. As Wilbur's self confidence grows he eventually fires a lazy, entitled employee. This backfires and Wilbur ends up getting sacked. With money tight, it looks like Wilbur might not make it. Thankfully his mom's come through for him and he is ready to head off to Paris. 

Paris is spectacular. Charlie's academic father is stern, compassionate, and hilarious. Together Charlie and Wilbur stand up to her estranged overbearing mother. No matter how the relationship between the two of them turns out, Wilbur is going to be ok. 

I liked so much about this book. 

The characters and their relationships with each other are real. Their development is authentic. Wilbur reminds me of one of my adorably geeky library monitors. Like Wilbur he was tall for his age with unique interests. Sal reminds me of the old men in my family. The parents and other adults (except for Charlie's mother) are supportive strong role models. I liked reading Wilbur's poetry. The connection to Charlotte's Web, my favourite book, delighted me completely. Wilbur started out as William, but loved the book so much he asked to change his name. This book is full of heart and humour. I laughed out loud numerous times - way more frequently than I cringed.

Ultimately this is a book about friendship. It’s about being friends across ages and cultures. I adore the honesty that Alex and Wilbur build. I love the advice that Sal gives Wilbur. I had a tear in my eye reading about their back story. I love the acceptance between all of them. I appreciate that Fabrizio makes an overture towards Wilbur to begin their own relationship. I especially appreciate that Charlie sets boundaries that ensure their continued connection no matter what the future brings. It’s a little bit about finding romance when you least expect it. This is also a book about becoming the best kind of person you can be. All you need is a little help from your friends. 

I've never read a Susin Nielsen book that I didn't love. This one might be the best so far.
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Wilbur Nuñez-Knopf believes in Defining Moments just like his mothers. On the first day of middle school the class assignment is to write a letter to themselves to be read after graduating from high school. Wilbur shares some very intimate feelings and honest thoughts in his letter.  Wilbur’s letter is dropped on the way to being locked up in the “time capsule”.  It is found by a student and soon all of Wilbur’s secrets were public knowledge. 
It is know the first day of grade nine and that first day of middle school is still haunting him. Wilbur manages as best he can. He belongs to the school band. Wilbur’s friend Alex from middle school is still supportive but since Alex started going out with Fabrizio he doesn’t have hang out with Wilbur as often. Wilbur does have another friend and confidant named Sal. Sal is Wilbur’s eighty something year old neighbour. Sal lost his wife so Wilbur helps Sal get to his aqua fit class and keeps tabs on him. Sal listens to Wilbur’s problems and tries his best to give Wilbur some guidance.
An exchange program with a school band from Paris has been arranged. Though money is tight Wilbur manages to participate in the program. The students from Paris come to Toronto first. Wilbur is to host Charlie during the bands’ visit. Charlie turns out to a lovely young lady and Wilbur is smitten. However Charlie only likes Wilbur as a friend. 
In an effort to help Wilbur present a more fashionable and confident image Alex, Fabrizio and Sal take him under their wings to offer some much needed advice.
I loved TREMENDOUS THINGS. Wilbur is that quirky underdog who touches our hearts. Themes include bullying, same sex partners and senior citizens. 
As expected Susin Nielsen had me laughing out loud but there scenes that brought tears to my eyes. Such great storytelling. 
Great recommendation for young adult readers who enjoy contemporary stories. 
Thank you to Penguin Random House for providing an advanced ebook edition.
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Susin Nielsen has produced another character that many young readers can/may/will relate to.. Another set of characters to love.
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Finding your way, and your true voice, is hard for any teenager - so a story bringing this type of struggle to light is always welcome (especially from a male perspective.) I loved the steady progression of Wilbur, from living down a terrible defining moment, to budding romance and all the trials and tribulations along the way.
I loved the school exchange trip, and the friends from different ages, backgrounds and circles. Nielsen’s titles are alway at hit, and I’m sure this one will be just as popular.
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