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FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, NATE! is the sequel to Better Nate Than Ever, but it works as a stand alone. With only five weeks to go until E.T. The Musical is scheduled to open for previews on Broadway, 13-year-old Nate Foster bids adieu to his hometown of Jankburg, PA. He’s got places to be. Specifically, New York City to make his world debut as E.T.’s understudy’s understudy and Alien Number Seven. As you might imagine, it’s a most exciting time.

Author Tim Federle draws from his Broadway experiences to tell a story that gives theater lovers a full access backstage pass to see how moving parts and mega egos come together in one massive production. It’s told from the wide eyes of a boy finally getting comfortable in his own skin, after much wiggling.

five, six,seven, nate

Things are a little different this time around. Nate’s parents actually know he’s going to New York City and, rather than scheming the free salsa and chips system, he now has his Aunt Heidi to feed and look after him. The story has the same little fish flopping around in a whirl pool quality that made the first book so funny, only this time around the adventure takes place mainly in the rehearsal room.

This is actually happening. Tomorrow night at this time I’ll be avoiding muggers in Time Square.

Back in Jankburg, talking theater and singing show tunes with his best friend Libby made the bullying Nate faced at school sort of manageable. He wasn’t popular, but he had his love for theater and the best best friend in the world.

“Libby?” Saying her name out loud … it’s like I’m a sponge and Libby’s the first drop of water in forever.

As thrilled as he is to be in the cast of a professional Broadway musical, working with professionally trained show biz kids who sing, dance and tumble brings up all his insecurities. Controlling stage mammas, daily script changes and internal cast dramas show Nate what it’s really like to be a working actor. Not surprisingly, he still wants in.

Nate loves the adventure he’s on but longs for home just like E.T. In the meantime he tries not to complain or worry that he might be part of the most expensive flop in history. This would sting as he and Libby use the names of flops like swearwords. If somethings not going well it, one of them may slip and mutter Merrily We Roll Along. (Side note: Yes, Merrily was a flop, but it’s a good musical with some great songs. I wish Federle wouldn’t use its name in vain.)

Throughout the rehearsal process, Nate’s good instincts inadvertently add spontaneity to the production. He arrives each day ready to work harder than anyone even though this involves doing quite a bit of early morning cardio so he can keep up.

These books have a few flaws, but they’re lots of fun to read. Nate is a deprecating, lovable character. His struggle to find a place he belongs is universal. The most compelling part is his gradual understanding of his own sexuality and a special moment with someone who knows exactly how he feels.