Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach
Published in 2011
Genre: Young adult
“This could be a dark tale!”
Not necessarily what one would expect to be the first line in a book about puberty and running, this is an apt beginning to an increasingly complex story. Stupid Fast, by Geoff Herbach, follows a dorky kid living in Bluffton, Wisconsin who one day wakes to find copious amounts of body hair and a natural ability to run faster than anyone else around. This newfound penchant for speed opens up new worlds for Felton as he tries to outrun his familial problems, discover who he is, and court the pretty piano player who lives in his best friend’s house for the summer.
Felton Reinstein is a 15-year-old, dorky kid whose puberty begins the spring of his sophomore year and makes him into a natural sprinter. He has a younger brother, Andrew, who is smart and practices piano much of the time. They live with their mother, Jerri, who is a hippy that has her children call her by her first name. She convinces her sons that their father was a kind, small man, but as Felton goes through his growth spurt, she becomes increasingly hostile and begins coping in unhealthy ways. He walked in to find his father had committed suicide when he was five and his mother burned most physical memorabilia, so all he and Andrew have are their own vague memories.
Stupid Fast follows the events in a summer of transition for Felton; his body is changing and he is having his first real relationship with Aleah, the lovely pianist who is living in his best friend’s vacated house for the summer. A boy with only a couple of close friends throughout middle school, he finds himself moving into a new group of friends and learning that maybe his preconceived notions about jocks and the people who used to pick on him aren’t necessarily true. Felton struggles with balancing his home and personal lives, spending more time working out and running in order to escape the turmoil boiling up at home.
The story is told through a first person point-of-view, which I typically dislike, but it works as Felton is telling the story in retrospect while staying up late one night. Herbach also uses foreshadowing to entice the reader to continue reading in order to find out what Felton is referencing. His voice comes across as a believable sophomore kid due to the run-on-ideas and his personal nicknames for the other inhabitants of Bluffton.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my connection to Geoff somewhere in this review; he was one of my creative writing professors in college. Now, this inherently makes me biased, but I like to think that I tried to be as subjective as possible (I will point you to my review of Sundown at Sunrise, which was a book loaned to me by my manager at work. Despite hoping it would be good, you can see the verdict I came upon). I will say that when I went to start reading Stupid Fast, I definitely wanted to like it; it is a happy realization that the book is inherently likeable (again, I wanted to like Sundown at Sunrise, but it basically kicked me in the balls with its bad prose; Stupid Fast asked me if I wanted to go for a bike ride while Felton told his tale).
This was another book that was difficult to take notes on because I felt drawn into the story. I found myself elated when things went well for Felton, worried when there were allusions to his problems at home, and my heart soared as things finally fell into place for him. This is a coming of age tale that is about far more than a joke becoming a jock; it is about the difficulty in finding personal identity as a young adult, searching for meaning in the world during a time when the stakes seem like they could never be higher, and learning that our actions affect other people. Stupid Fast is a quick read because the reader becomes heavily invested in Felton’s character and his story; if the best books hold some kernel of truth, then Stupid Fast is an entire cob of its own.
For more information about Geoff and his other work, feel free to visit his website.
Verdict: 4 small-town nicknames out of 5
Recommended for: Young adults, old adults, nerdy high school kids, adults who used to be nerdy high school kids, jocks, adults who used to be jocks, sons, and brothers.
Not recommended for: Little children (there’s some choice language and emotional parts that might not be appropriate or relevant to them), those looking for a simple story about geeks and jocks, or fans of bad prose.