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Book Cover Image: Everything Sucks by Hannah Friedman

Title:  Everything Sucks

Author:  Hannah Friedman

No. of Pages:  255

First Released:  2009

Synopsis (Courtesy of B&N):  “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.”

Comments and Critique:  I am beginning to question whether I should give up on memoirs altogether.  It seems that almost every one that I read lately has not really grabbed me.  Maybe my issue is the fact that I had such high expectations for Everything Sucks.  The title alone gave me hope – that and the fact that a fellow blogger recommended this book earlier this year.  Unfortunately, I am left feeling rather meh about it, and I am not happy with that. 

At first, I found this book painful in a good way.  It made me look back upon my own teenage years, which I feel is in keeping with this year of personal development and reflection.  I realized that everyone experiences the same doubt, pain, and suffering while in high school.  Then, I started to reflect.  Here’s my problems with Ms. Friedman’s story:

First of all, the synopsis makes it seem as if her extreme behavior is just that – extreme.  However, I found the problems were not as obvious or extreme as they were made to appear.  I never got the impression that Hannah ever truly fit in to the popular crowd; she makes mention of the fact that she cannot afford the same designer clothes that her friends purchase, and she also discusses the backstabbing ways of her closest “friends”.  Her food issues are understated, as are the drug problems.  So, I went in expecting this major drama and extremist behavior and just was not satisfied on that end.

Then, I realized that yes, high school does suck.  There is tremendous pressure to fit in, get good grades, but millions of people don’t turn to drugs or bulimia to fit in.  We all contemplate the idea of a fresh start during high school; Ms. Friedman gets that chance and almost ruins her life during it.  This got me thinking – what gives her the right to complain about this?  She made her choices all on her own.  No one forced her to start taking drugs or binge and purge.  So life sucks in high school.  So what?  It sucks because she made the wrong choices.  The self-righteous tone adopted throughout the book as Ms. Friedman tries to justify her high school behavior to her readers really began to bother me.

Also, I do recognize that Ms. Friedman overcame some major issues.  However, how exactly did she recover?  At one point in time in the book, she has a major drug problem and is severely bulimic.  Then, she is in college with no problems.  At no point in time, she makes no mention of rehab or how she recovered.  This is a major failing given the target audience.  I do recognize the fact that Everything Sucks would be powerful reading for teens, which concerns me about the lack of discussion regarding resolutions to her problems.  The drug and eating problems were severe enough to require medical attention of some sort, and to avoid discussing this part of the story may give those same teen readers the idea that they too can miraculously resolve their issues without any outside help.  It is extremely misleading, in my opinion, and also quite a dangerous omission.

As I mentioned, I imagine this memoir to be quite popular among teenagers, but I found it whiny and pretentious as an adult.  Then again, I am more than convinced that memoirs are not for me.  Honestly, I start thinking about why publishers/ people feel their stories are better than others, and it bothers me.  If I could relate more to Ms. Friedman, I might have felt differently about this particular book, but her whining grated on my nerves and her life choices caused me to shake my head in frustration.  I am glad that I read the book, if only to be more aware of the pressures my own children may face when they get to high school.

I am curious about what others thought of this book.  Have you read it yet?  What did you think?  Am I off-base in my reflections?

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