Cover Image: Tremendous Things

Tremendous Things

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

If you like books where your unabashedly dorky teens are best friends with octogenarians, then this book is for you.

I am always charmed by Susin Nielsen's books, which are so often teetering on the cusp between Junior High and "mature" YA. (Penis talk and embarrassing erections ahoy.) The non-boner risque moment? Wilbur receives a care package for his overseas trip that contains condoms.

It's the kind of gentle over the top cast of characters that you find in a movie like Easy A (oh my god, remember Easy A? I loved Easy A) or Ten Things I Hate About You, mixed with a little La Boum. I also appreciate any book where a teen has a healthy relationship with their parent(s) or other adults.
Was this review helpful?
Nielsen's protagonists tend to be awkward outsiders. NOt Manic pixie delights, like a John Green book. No, these kids are painfully socially inept. And that's why I love them. They stumble their way into being more comfortable in their own skin, maybe into fitting in a little better. They reach for the stars and often fail, finding new dreams to take their place. They are disappointed and then they move on. This one follows that same pattern and I was there for it all the way.
Was this review helpful?
Tremendous Things by Susin Nielsen is an absolute sweet, honest story that will make you smile while turning pages.  Will, or Wilbur, is a our down-on-his-luck-forever-to-be-bullied main character who holds nothing back when it comes to who he really is - a totally honest and kind-hearted young man, much older than his actual age.  He tells us right away that he's practically friendless, which we learn isn't entirely true.  There are plenty of people who care about him, and they're about to help him make some changes for the better, all so he can, maybe, get a girl.  

The very best part about this book is the cast of characters, from the Mumps (WIlbur's moms) to Sal (his elderly neighbor) to Charlie, an exchange student from France who is wise beyond her years.  It's this lively cast of friends that open Wilbur's eyes, proving he is "some pig," and that he really does have a special place in his home, his school, and his community.  

Tremendous Things is a heartwarming and delightful story - E. B. White, and Charlotte herself, would be proud.
Was this review helpful?
This is a sweet and funny YA coming of age title.  Wilbur loves his moms and his elderly neighbor, but he falls flat at school socially.  His chance at redemption happens when a French exchange student is placed with him and he gets a chance to shine.  This is a quick read that many students will enjoy. I appreciated Wilbur's relatioship with his moms and his friends' Queer Eye style intervention.
Was this review helpful?
Sensitive, home-schooled only child Wilbur knows his moms love him, but his self-esteem takes a major hit when the family moves and Wilbur is thrust into public middle school.  Bully Tyler makes his life miserable, but Wilbur gradually makes some connections, befriending elderly neighbor Sal.  By 9th grade he and band classmate Alex bond over songwriting, giving Wilbur a purpose for his poetry writing.  When the school band hosts French exchange students, charming and glamorous Charlotte is placed with Wilbur’s family; Wilbur crushes on Charlotte but she just wants to be friends and seems to be interested in smarmy Tyler.

In three months, Wilbur’s band is scheduled to travel to Paris, but Wilbur feels hopeless about sparking a romance with Charlotte and money is tight.  Sal, Alex, and Alex’s boyfriend Fabrizio stage a “Queer Eye” style intervention designed to boost Wilbur’s self-confidence, get him into better physical shape, and replace his appalling beige wardrobe.  Though not everything about the Paris trip fulfills Wilbur’s hopes, he manages to grow and to be present to his experiences, finally pushing back on Tyler.

Nielsen’s characters are guaranteed to be nuanced and interesting and her settings vividly portrayed.  If she writes it, I’ll read it.
Was this review helpful?
I would definitely put this book in my classroom library (for any grade above 6th). It is billed as a young adult, but I think it's more middle grade bordering on young adult. 

Wilbur is a lovable young character with an elderly best friend, and I love that trope. He also has a friend in Alex, and Alex's boyfriend. The LGBTQ+ representation in this book (with both his friends and his mothers) is quite nice, as it's just there and not something that is made out to be a huge deal. It's just life! 

I do feel like all of the characters were necessary to tell the story the author wanted to tell, but this caused some characters and relationships to feel more flat than they could have. The book could've had an extra 50 pages, and it would've rounded out the characters and their development nicely. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this. It was a quick 2ish hour read, and I would definitely recommend it for kids aged 12 or higher (with the preface that there are some aspects about sex and body parts that are discussed).
Was this review helpful?
4 stars 

Susin Nielsen writes quirky and highly lovable characters, and Wilbur, the m.c. of this newest work, is no exception. Wilbur has two awesome moms, a dog named Templeton, a best friend in his 80s named Sal, a few friends at school, a nemesis, and a crush on a French exchange student, Charlotte (who goes by Charlie). You're picking up on the _Charlotte's Web_ vibes, and that's good. There is a very sweet tie in with that part. 

At times, Wil reads much younger than he is, which is part of the point, but it can also be disarming when this super immature (in some ways) character goes to work and experiences romantic feelings, for example. Despite his reflections of immaturity at times, Wil grows so much overall and definitely out of his childlike ways. His struggles become opportunities for growth, and he makes good use of those opportunities. 

This is a quick read, and it covers many bases. While the LGBTQ+ rep is positive overall, there is a moment when a bully dead names one of Wil's classmates. I get that this kid is a bully, but there are many ways to handle his disrespect that still could have protected readers from witnessing that character's dead naming (and dead name, more specifically). I was really disturbed by this, and I want to say I'm surprised that no one caught this for being extremely problematic in the editing process, but let's be real about who is editing these books (and then not feel surprised at all). 

Minus this to me serious oversight, the rest of the book efficiently addresses bullying, friendships, romance, coming of age, and grief in powerful ways. I'd feel a lot better without that one line, but I'll recommend this one with a strong caveat nonetheless (and - by the way - never put it on my syllabus because of that unfortunate inclusion).
Was this review helpful?
This book was unexpected. When I saw the cover, I thought, "Cute!" When I read the blurb, I thought, "Gonna be funny!" I started reading and thought, "Boys will love this!" (I know, I know! There aren't "boy" books and "girl" books, but... I mean... there kind of are.) Anyway, I'm reading and thinking that I made a spot-on judgement of this book. And I was glad! The book was good. Funny, honest, serious but not too serious. Just a fluffy good time. And then... unexpected!

This book has a lot of depth and a lot of heart. The characters are real and flawed and very loveable. (Well, most of them. I'm looking at you, Tyler Kertz!) The messages are clear without being preachy, and they're important. Love yourself for who you are, but also change the things that you can if you need to in order to make *yourself* happier, more confident, and brave. Also, friends are the people who help us be our best selves, no matter their age, background, gender, etc. And, don't miss out on "tremendous things" because you're fearful; don't let the amazing experiences of life pass you by. All of these are great messages that aren't common in young adult literature.

But, surrounding all of these real characters and important themes are lots and lots of funny, cringe-y, wholly entertaining episodes. I truly enjoyed this book from the first page to the last! It was certainly not as devastating as "A Short History of the Girl Next Door," but I got some of the same vibes. This is a book I can't wait to purchase and put on my classroom shelves!
Was this review helpful?
14 year old Wilbur was cruelly nicknamed Wank after a private letter to his future self meant for a school time capsule was lost, and unfortunately passed to a bully, revealing candid and perhaps too explicitly personal information. Wilbur’s two mums, his friend Alex, who is swooning after another boy, and a geriatric best friend Sal, round out the cast of supporting characters. To which is added a beautiful French exchange student, a trip to Paris to stay with her difficult family, and a budding unrequited crush. All told with honesty and a good measure of humor. This is a delightful, funny, touching, and thoroughly engaging story.
Was this review helpful?
I'm a fan of Susin Nielsen, so I was ELATED when I saw this pop up on NetGalley. This was the perfect blend of insanely embarrassing and funny and relatable.
Was this review helpful?
Heartwarming, funny, and sometimes genuinely cringe worthy story about 14 year old Wilbur Nuñez-Knopf who has never quite lived down a frankly excruciatingly embarrassing experience in middle school. Now he's in high school, subject to a widely used humiliating nickname stemming from his middle school days (one so wide spread even teachers sometimes slip and use it), deeply socially awkward, and obviously attracted to his French exchange student partner. When his exchange student partner returns home to France, Wilbur and his friends (an 85 year old neighbor, a classmate, and that classmate's newish boyfriend) decide to help Wilbur reinvent himself, inside and outside, before his own trip to Paris for the second half of the exchange program. The novel doesn't include any big twists or surprises and there will no doubt be many parents who complain about the ongoing references to penises and erections (which serve as a sort of humiliating refrain in poor Wilbur's life), but readers looking for something funny, relatable, and gently life affirming should absolutely check it out.
Was this review helpful?