The new book, which hit retailers March 29, follows Quinn Roberts, a 16-year-old aspiring filmmaker with a weakness for Jolly Ranchers and boys. After a devastating tragedy, Quinn embarks on a "laugh-out-loud sad" journey of self re-discovery in hopes of getting back on the path toward Hollywood glory -- or, at least, graduation. A budding summer romance doesn't hurt, either.
Federle's affable wit is apparent in these two exclusive clips from The Great American Whatever audiobook, also released this week. In the first clip, the author narrates a scene in which Quinn confronts his love interest, Amir, after an awkward night on the town.
The audiobook also includes an interview with Federle, which can be heard below. As the author explains in the interview, he wanted The Great American Whatever to focus on a complex, "less-filtered" character whose sexuality was significant without being his most definitive trait. It's a slight departure from Federle's middle grade novels Better Nate Than Ever and Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, which feature a gay protagonist who is just beginning to understand his feelings toward other boys.
"I hope that readers of all persuasions find a really funny, wry narrator who also speaks to a minority population," Federle says in the interview. He had a lot of personal experience to draw from, too. "Quinn speaks with a certain sophistication that I frankly think a lot of gay people have, because we're so aware so early that we're different from others," he says.
While The Great American Whatever is geared toward a teen audience, Federle hopes the book will resonate with readers of all ages.
"So much of the teenage experience – particularly the complications in forging new identities and relationships – continues well into adulthood," Federle told The Huffington Post last year. "I want people to read The Great American Whatever with a smile on their face and maybe a couple tears in their eyes."
Federle is in the midst of a creative blitz that's taken him from stage to page and back again. In 2015, the former Broadway performer, 36, nabbed a Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Children's Book for Five, Six, Seven, Nate!, and released Gone with the Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist, the latest in his bestselling cocktail series. He's also co-written the book for the musical adaptation of "Tuck Everlasting," which opens on Broadway April 26.