It is summer and HOT. Quinn Roberts is grieving the loss of his sister, Annabeth, in a tragic car accident that happened right before Christmas Break. The world has stopped for both him and his mom. Rotten food is still in the refrigerator, mail is piling up and Quinn is no longer doing anything teenagers usually do: going to school, hanging out with friends, dating or pursuing their interests. For Quinn, this means finishing his screenplay, something he can't bear to do, because it connects him to Annabeth, who directed the filming of his screenplays. His grief is compounded by his guilt over fighting with Annabeth the day she died, including sending her an awful text message.
His best friend Geoff persuades him to go out to buy an air conditioner, which bizarrely leads to attending a college party. There Quinn meets Amir, his first love interest. What follows is a first romance, Quinn attempting to deal with his grief and guilt, and a shocking secret that almost destroys everyone.
I loved, LOVED this book! I alternated between never wanting to put it down and trying to stop after each chapter so that I could slow down and savor it. I laughed and cried as I read; I identified so much with Quinn even though I'm a 38-year old woman. Grief and guilt are themes many adults have had to experience, but I also credit the strength of the writing for developing that connection. I also loved the references to the Pittsburgh area, one of my favorite places to visit, especially the Kennywood chapter. I could practically feel myself on "The Rabbit" and taste the Patch fries. I have not read Federle's middle grade novels, Five, Six, Seven, Nate or Better Nate Than Ever, but after finishing The Great American Whatever, I picked up both from the public library. I hope he publishes more books for young adults. Highly recommended for grades 9 and up.