Sunday, November 8, 2009

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

Summary: 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. (summary from the book - image from amazon.com)

My review: Let’s be honest, sometimes when I’m given a book to review, I’m not entirely certain that I’m going to like it. I am hesitant to crack the cover for fear I’ll have to review the book using words like “abysmal,” “mindless,” and “incoherent”.

Hannah Friedman, you may breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not going to use any of those words. Everything Sucks is an intelligent, quirky, sarcastic, and authentic portrayal of a young girl weaving her way through the terrors and trials of adolescence. Keep reading...

Hannah's story begins in a public high school, where she is tormented and ostracized. Her parents quickly transfer her to an elite private school, where she is inexplicably included in the inner circle despite her lack of finances and fashion sense. Both of these sections are filled with mortifying moments you’d rather die than have to live and instances where you ache in painful sympathy. Hannah, as a character, is oh-so-easy to care about. I certainly identified with the beginning of this book, where Hannah was unpopular, insecure, and desperate to fit in. She was a teenage-me (and probably every teenage girl) in so many ways.

As Hannah progressed down darker roads of travel – exploring drugs, and sexual relationships, I had a harder time identifying with her experience (having led a fairly sheltered life). Her struggles, quite simply, were not mine and very foreign to me. Despite having to skeptically wade through Hannah’s experiences with drugs, sex, eating disorders, and family dysfunction, her story concludes with a message of self-discovery and acceptance. Nowhere is Hannah’s growth more evident than in her final plea to the universe. Despite her extremely rocky path, and the way in which she learned her lessons, I found myself cheering for the growth she had attained in those four short years.

While I can’t say that I would ever want my children to learn the same lessons in quite the same way or environment that Hannah did (let alone read about it), I appreciate her story for what it is – a dynamic recollection of her personal journey through a turbulent adolescence into the shaking footing of a young adult.

Sidenote: Mormonism (my faith) makes a hysterical cameo in this novel when a Jewish Hannah meets her boyfriend Adam’s LDS family (and all 72 cousins) at Christmastime. It was brief, but so true-to-life that I had to snort with hysterical sympathy. Oh poor Hannah! Meeting the FAMILY!? Children of the Corn!? *Snort*

My rating: 3.25 Stars. To a sensitive reader or parent: With a title like this it is likely to draw the attention of every teenager within reach – either because they agree with the statement or they think it’s another teen vampire novel. To that end I add a caution. Everything Sucks is a blunt, frequently profane, and graphic, portrayal of the life of a teenage girl. If you like to supervise your teens reading, you’ll definitely want to read this first so that you can discuss it with them. If you are squeamish about drugs or un-glamourized sexual situations, you will probably struggle with the latter half of this book.

Sum it up: An authentic depiction of a tumultuous adolescence and Hannah’s struggle for self-acceptance.

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