Felton Reinstein has never had it easy. Only five years old, he was the one who found his father dead, hanging in the garage. His mother decided the best thing to do was to burn all artifacts that would remind the family of their father and to move on. But Felton has a myth of his father in his mind—a small, nice, Jewish guy.
Felton’s a small guy, too, with what he calls a ‘Jewfro.’ Until he’s not. Until he’s a hulking, big guy. A big, very hairy guy who, as he tells it, smells like pee stink when he sweats. Because when his very late puberty rolls in during his sophomore year of high school, Felton discovers that he’s ‘stupid fast.’ And all the coaches are interested in him, especially the football and track coaches. He may have the opportunity to change the direction of his life—from social outcast to star jock.
But Felton’s not sure he wants to hang out with the ‘honkies’ and ‘poopstinkers’ (his word for kids at his school that treat him badly) of ‘Suckville’—Bluffton, Wisconsin. They call him Rein Stone and Squirrel Nut. He’s often the butt of their jokes. But what are his options? His only friend has gone to Venezuela for the summer and he’s falling for a beautiful pianist that he sees on his paper route. The paper route that he hates and had to take over for the summer as a favor to that best friend, Gus. On which he delivers the news to a nursing home, a “hot, stinky prison for innocent old ladies who have lived too long (like that’s a crime).”
“You know what isn’t pretty? Old ladies in their underwear. You know what I got to see lots of? Old ladies in their underwear.”
Felton knows that the Suckville jocks are very rude and bullying. Except when they aren’t. One of the most popular athletes and football players on campus decides to mentor him. So Felton is learning not to judge everyone by their school activities. Maybe using his incredible physical skill is his best option. After all, his wish to be a comedian isn’t working out very well. If only his mother, whom he calls Jerri because she insists, hadn’t gone off the deep end when Felton started growing. Why does she react like this?
Jerri is clearly in the grip of mental illness, leaving Felton and his younger brother, Andrew to fend for themselves. While she locks herself in her room with the TV, the two boys scrounge around for food. Andrew is looking for answers—and he thinks he’ll find them in the true story of his father. But the closer he gets, the deeper Jerri sinks.
High school housekeeping: Judging from the topics—suicide, bullying, small town prejudices—you’d think that Stupid Fast is a dark novel. But it’s actually very funny. Felton has a weird sense of humor and an odd take on the world around him. People can relate to his social miscues and mistakes. This is a book about friendship and romance with a girl who doesn’t care very much about what other people think is cool (she is, after all, a brilliant, world-class pianist). It’s about high school dynamics and cliques. It takes on a dysfunctional family and family secrets in a way that makes you identify with Felton without feeling despair. It has enough football practice and game action to satisfy fans. And, well—it’s just funny. I recommend it to all teens, but particularly to guys and football fans. Important to note is that it’s the first novel in the Reinstein Brothers series, so if you read it and like it, there’s more where that came from.