Tremendous Things

Tremendous Things

By Author / Illustrator

Susin Nielsen


Real life

Age range(s)



Andersen Press Ltd








Wilbur has spent his teens being bullied and now he's sure he's nothing but a loser: his best friend is 85 years old, and his only talent is playing the triangle in the school band. Things start to look up when a mix-up with the French exchange programme results in Wilbur being assigned a girl to look after – an amazing, sophisticated, beautiful French girl called Charlie. Wilbur is sure he's in love, and his sometime friend Alex has a plan to give Wilbur the makeover that will get Charlie to love him back. But the course of true amour never did run smooth . . .

Video and Q&A with Tremendous Things author Susin Nielsen



A Susin Nielsen book is a real joy. A wry smiling, head nodding, frequent chuckling, joy. And that's not an easy thing to create. Susin Nielsen, you are terrific. Radiant. Some human being!

Tremendous Things begins with Wil's Defining Moment, narrated by Wil; honestly it's a beauty and you're going to love Wil, his naivety, his honesty, his resignation. It'll be painful at times, but you'll love him. Before his Defining Moment Wil had many goals for his new school journey and bounced with an optimism that hadn't yet met Tyler. After his Defining Moment, Wil's sole goal was to try to survive, sentenced as he was to an eternity in hell.

Wil is ably assisted in his goal to survive by Alex, his best friend (though a boyfriend on the scene has diluted available time) and Sal, his very best friend - and while I love Wil it is Sal, his 85 year old neighbour, who really wins my heart (with his quiet understanding, sage advice and positive outlook...I defy you not to adore the pair after just one session of Aquacise for Seniors).

Alex and Sal meet up after a school exchange trip, the aftermath of which leaves Wil melancholic - 'it had been like a Dickens novel: the best of times, the worst of times.' The course of true love never runs smoothly and as the arrow pierced Wil's heart, 'I did what any fourteen year old boy would do when he's full of rage. I wrote a poem.' Hence his friends' intervention; they put in place a plan of action for Wil to be his best self and this is the heart of the book, friendship. Friendship and the many varied ways to being awesome.

Beautifully written with a cracking cast, make it your next book to read!

288 pages / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+

Maddie - Age 13

After being home schooled by his inspirational mothers for many years, Wilbur has very few social skills and friends so when he first joins a secondary school he gets picked on by the school bully almost immediately. An embarrassing letter gets posted onto social media and Wilbur becomes the target for laughing at and shaming. Years later and still being bullied, he takes part in his music club's school exchange programme. He gets paired with Charlie - who turns out is actually a beautiful girl and Wilbur sets out to become her boyfriend. With the help of his best friend, elderly Sal, as well as his only school friend and his friend's boyfriend, he sets about becoming his best self, physically and mentally, to win Charlie's heart before he sets off to France to meet her.

This is a lovely story about self confidence and growing outside of your comfort zone, as well as not letting others determine your self worth. I really enjoyed the story line and all the humour included, as well as the characters as you feel as if they became your friends as well and you fell in love with them all! I would recommend this book to anyone who likes heart felt, positive, and not to mention very funny books.

Suggested Reading Age 11+

Kerenza - Age 13

Tremendous things is a book about falling in love and finding yourself as a teenager in the modern world. I really liked this book because it was really funny and made me laugh, while also dealing with difficult topics like bullying, homophobia and not fitting in as well as including lots of representation. I really enjoyed discovering more about the characters and their lives and backstories. The book is very well written, and I felt involved in the plot all the way through the story, as if I was experiencing it with Wilbur.

Suggested Reading Age 14+


Wilbur writes an embarrassing letter to his future self and Tyler (a school bully) finds it and puts it on Social Media. Wilbur becomes a laughing stock at school. Forever labelled a freak, he begins to write poetry and befriends his elderly neighbour, Sal. With few other friends, Wilbur hopes the French exchange student he is due to host will become his friend. But Charlie is a girl!

Unrequited first love and an exchange trip to Paris - with some funny but embarrassing moments - follow, but these together with his growing friendships help Wilbur learn more about himself, and develop confidence.  There may even be romance on the horizon after all, closer to home than he thought.

I enjoyed the positivity and message in this book. Being confident in yourself, just as you are. Loving yourself, and building on the good things. Wilbur is relatable as a teenage boy and the embarrassing, cringeworthy moments add a lot of humour. The book has great LGBTQ rep with gay characters and same-sex parents.

PSHEE links - Bullying, Friendships, Body Confidence, Self-Esteem, Puberty, Consent.

288 pages / Reviewed by Katrina Waldron, school librarian

Suggested Reading Age 14+


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