Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach was the 2011 Cybil winner for YA fiction. It illustrates one of the reasons I like the Cybils. Stupid Fast is not a a paranormal romance or fantasy or part of a dystopian or apocalyptic trilogy, all of which attract big sales. Nor is it a heart-warming overcoming-adversity-in-a-small-town-filled- with-eccentric-characters-story, which attract awards. It has the overcoming adversity thing but with an edge, maybe even a desperate edge. Books like Stupid Fast don't fit into the standard marketing molds used right now.
Neither does the Cybils. It is made for books like Stupid Fast. The book was well reviewed, but I would never have heard of it without its Cybils win. What's more, it has two sequels that I only heard about a couple of hours ago when I started preparing this post.
Felton Reinstein is limping through adolescence when he suddenly starts to grow. And that growth spurt makes him fast. It's a life-changing event because his speed makes him desirable to the coaches at school as well as to the student athletes who had never been part of his world before. Felton is evolving. He is in transition. He's in a liminal state, as the anthropologists might say, he is most definitely in some state that is neither one thing or another, neither child nor man.
This makes Stupid Fast so a YA book. I say that because it's not unusual for me to read a YA book that is perfectly decent as a story, entertaining, but what about it is YA? You definitely know why Stupid Fast is YA.
Now, while Felton is doing his transitional thing, he is living with a parent who is descending into mental illness and a brother who is in need of help in dealing with her. It's as if he's living two different, simultaneous lives, one in which he is becoming more and more desperate, and another in which he is becoming more and more competent and part of the world outside his home. Something similar happened in Alice Bliss where Alice was dealing with her father's deployment while continuing to grow up, because that's what adolescents do. Adolescents have to grow and change. They can't help themselves. It's the nature of the beasts.
I think someone could argue that Stupid Fast's ending is a little too much of a turn around. A deus ex machina type character shows up to make everything right, and things work out really well for Felton. But this adult reader also felt that Felton could have his good moment because things weren't going to stay that way for him. If I ever get around to reading the sequels, I suspect I'll find out that I'm right.
While reading Stupid Fast I kept wondering about YA problem novels versus the adult equivalent. Stupid Fast probably could be described as a problem novel. When adult novels deal with characters with problems, what are they? Are they ever referred to as problem novels or as something else?