Everything Sucks: Losing My Mind and Finding Myself in a High School Quest For Cool by Hannah Friedman

Monday, September 21, 2009

When everything sucks,
change everything . . .

And that's exactly what Hannah Friedman set out to do in an ambitious attempt to bust out of a life of obscurity and absurdity and into an alternate world of glamour, wealth, and popularity.

Being dubbed 'That Monkey Girl' by middle school bullies and being pulled out of sixth grade to live on a tour bus with her agoraphobic mother, her smelly little brother, and her father's hippie band mates convinces Hannah that she is destined for a life of freakdom.

But when she enters one of the country's most prestigious boarding schools on scholarship, Hannah transforms herself into everything she is not: cool. By senior year, she has a perfect millionaire boyfriend, a perfect GPA, a perfect designer wardrobe, and is part of the most popular clique in school, but somehow everything begins to suck far worse than when she first started. Her newfound costly drug habit, eating disorder, identity crisis, and Queen-Bee attitude lead to the unraveling of Hannah's very unusual life.

Putting her life back together will take more than a few clicks of her heels, or the perfect fit of a glass slipper, in this not-so-fairy tale of going from rock bottom to head of the class and back again.

I can honestly say that Hannah Friedman is incredibly brave to write such an honest and intimate memoir about her teenage years; most of the things in this book you can probably file under Things People Don't Talk About. Sex, drugs, eating disorders - all are dealt with in a way that's unflinchingly honest, and I think teenaged readers will really appreciate that. From reading the back cover blurb, this novel sounds like a pot luck of teen issues, and you might think that it's going to be the kind of thing where there's some overarching moral (Teen sex leads to slow and painful death, Recreational drug use is flat-out evil, etc), but really it's just a recollection of her experiences, and there's no need for there to be some message behind it all.

I'm not going to give an age rating here, mainly because I think teenagers should be able to decide for themselves what they want to read. As long as you're comfortable with books that have cursing, sex and drug use, this book is definitely worth a read. It's such a frank portrayal of life as a teenager, and I think that young readers will take a lot out of it. I didn't expect this novel to be anywhere near as truthful or as dark as it is; it was definitely a memorable book, and all high-schoolers will find something to relate to in it.

One more thing I'll mention is the Newsweek article Hannah wrote whilst still at high school. It's worth having a look at, and then reading the book to see the negative reaction she received from peers and teachers. Overall, this book gives the reader (okay, me) a sense that they're not alone in their high school experiences. I can say that though I've never been to a private high school, or bullied, or taken drugs I still found this book to touch on things I'd experienced myself, and I went: Thank God, maybe I will make it out of this alive.


Book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptHq72aRt90
Author's blog: http://www.writinghannah.com/
Author's website: http://www.hannahfriedman.com/
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