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4/23/2001 2:59:11 AM
BEHIND THE LINES: Moving Emotional Narrative? Naaah...Just Laughs
by Kelly Huegel

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Teen Angst? Naaah ... A Quasi-Autobiography (Free Spirit Publishing, 200 pp, $12.95) by Ned Vizzini

To tell you the truth, I didn't have high hopes for this book. There were two reasons that I was skeptical about Teen Angst?. First, I join countless others in looking back at my high school years not with a wistful sense of nostalgia, but with a feeling of tremendous relief that they're over. In retrospect, we grow to realize that high school is a unique experience far from the real world.

That's right, I don't think that high school is anything like the real world -- it's much harder. Fortunately, in the real world, our bosses are not elected by popularity contests in which they paper the office with signs that read "AJ is OK. Vote AJ for CEO," or "Win with Flynn. Becky Flynn for Regional Manager." We don't have to worry about who we're going to sit with at lunch or who we'll ask to be our date for the annual sales conference. And, in today's high-tech society, the words "nerd" and "geek" are considered by many to be compliments.

Having recovered -- and rather nicely, I like to think -- from my own high school years, I wasn't exactly anxious to revisit the experience through the eyes of Ned Vizzini.

The second reason I was skeptical is that with my copy of Teen Angst? was accompanied by a slew of quotes from various authors and reviewers, all of whom hailed the book as "hysterical" or referred to Vizzini as a "genius." So with that kind of buildup, I was sure I'd be disappointed. Fortunately, that was not the case.

After the first 20 or so pages, when I got up to reheat my coffee and found myself waiting anxiously for the microwave timer to count down, I realized I was hooked.

Through a series of humorous -- and that's putting it mildly -- essays, the now college-age author takes readers through his life from junior high to his graduation from high school. In each chapter, Vizzini puts his sense of humor and keen observational skills to work, the result being a collection of vignettes that had me laughing out loud. (I know that's an over-used phrased that generations of reviewers have effectively beaten within an inch of its life, but there's just no other way to say it.) In fact, I would recommend this book not only to teens, but also to their parents and, heck, to anyone who survived the public school system.

In Teen Angst?, Vizzini touches on the key issues of adolescence. From the three D's -- dating, drinking, and drugs -- to sex, grades, and rock and roll, he addresses with wit and surprising clarity some of the most difficult issues of growing up.

Vizzini's brand of comic observation is evidenced in chapter titles like "Nintendo Saved Me," "Horrible Mention," "Everybody Loves a Wheelchair," and "Getting Sloppy with Poppy." Readers will be in hysterics as Vizzini recounts some of the highlights of his checkered past, from organizing a protest of "Take Our Daughters to Work Day" to an ill-fated appearance on daytime television's "The View."

If you're in the market for some laughs, get your hands on a copy of this book. But don't ask to borrow mine ... I just might want to read it again.

For more about the author of Teen Angst?, please visit http://www.nedvizzini.com/.

KELLY HUEGEL, author of Young People and Chronic Illness, is a Washington, D.C.-based free-lance writer and editor. For more information about her book or free-lance services, visit http://www.zoecomm.com/. Click here to contact any of our authors.


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