Breezy, funny, and genuine
Of this autobiographical account of coming of age as a teenager in New York City, PW said, "Readers will likely laugh at 19-year-old Vizzini's awkward antics. He shows a real talent for self-deprecating humor." Ages 12-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his first book, 19-year-old Vizzini recounts his comical and intelligent, if not particularly penetrating experiences as a teenager coming of age in New York City. The first section covers highlights from junior high school, followed by one section each for his four years at Stuyvesant High School. Each showcases such universal and humiliating hurdles as vacationing with parents and preparing for the prom. Readers get a real sense of Vizzini through his stories (one especially insightful chapter describes his painstaking preparations for the high school admissions test) and some clever marginalia (e.g., "I'm skinny now, but over 50 percent of American men end up overweight, so I'll probably be fat later on"). He's gifted but gawky, adventurous yet filled with anxiety. Most of all, he shows a real talent for self-deprecating humor ("Being a cheap and petty person, I was shocked at how expensive the modern prom is"). However, some essays that could have meaning for many readers fall short on the follow-through: for example, the author talks about filling out a college application, but never discusses how he made his final decision about where to attend. Chapters about buying a Nintendo system or attempting to produce a video for cable access television are entertaining, but don't pack much punch. Readers will likely laugh at Vizzini's awkward antics, but may not find them particularly memorable. Ages 13-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
This delightful set of short essays was written by a New York City student between the ages of 15 and 18; many of the pieces were previously published in New York Press and The New York Times Magazine. Ned writes about his experiences in junior high and high school with self-deprecating humor, telling of his eighth-grade rock band, Wormwhole ("we had no vocalist...our lyrics were telepathic"), his obsessions with Nintendo and Magic cards, his drive to get into competitive Stuyvesant High School, a race he ran in the rainin sandalsto impress a girl, tentative experiments with marijuana and alcohol, his fear of dancing, his first girlfriend, playing dominos on the street in the Village, a summer job as a house painter, and much more. It's fun spending time with Ned; both my thirteen-year-old daughter and my sixteen-year-old son read this and recommended it warmly to me. As the title indicates, Ned has an upbeat attitude and he approaches the world with a refreshing openness (but material here is at most PG-13, not R-rated, in case librarians need to know). Vizzini has a way with words; students struggling to write essays could learn a lot from reading his. B/w illustrations by Chris Schons break up the text. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2000, Free Spirit, 234p, illus, index, 20cm, 00-037131, $12.95. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Paula Rohrlick; November 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 6)
Nineteen-year-old Vizzini, likeable spokesperson for the teenagers who do not make headlines, has written a series of charming essays that are laced with delightful moments of "ah HA" humor, covering his junior high and high school experiences. His pieces, which have been published in The New York Times Magazine and The New York Press since he was fifteen, are self-deprecating peeks into the bumbling harmless adventures that defined his adolescence. Vizzini is "this close" to sneaking off to Cancun for several days on his senior trip when he realizes that he is committed to portraying Jesus in his church play, which opens the same evening as takeoff. Vizzini unsuccessfully pitches his homemade video that features young girls being munched by really big, really mad turtles to his local community access television station. Vizzini's descriptions of his peers are smart, precise, and often hilarious. Frequent asides appear in the margins to clarify, elaborate, or reassureno animals were harmed in the filming of Attack of the Killer Turtle. Readers can only hope that once Vizziniwho has postponed college while in search of the ever-elusive get-rich-quick-on-the-Internet fortunehas the cyber start-up itch out of his system, he will go back to writing. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2000, Free Spirit, 208p, $12.95 Trade pb. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Beth Anderson
SOURCE: VOYA, October 2000 (Vol. 23, No. 4)
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-The author, who is described as being a little on the geeky side and not too suave with girls, recorded his high school experiences between the ages of 15 and 18. These essays, originally published in the New York Press and New York Times Magazine, now appear in this compilation. Vignettes do not necessarily lend themselves to a straightforward plot, so the fiercely intelligent and introspective Vizzini concentrates on style rather than action. His wonderfully sardonic voice, like Daniel Pinkwater's in The Education of Robert Nifkin (Farrar, 1998), suggests a wisdom beyond his years. "The teen world is full of second prizes. Nobody wants to hurt our self-esteem." His timely scenarios include a Nintendo obsession, Magic cards, a visit to ABC's The View, and singular incidents with marijuana and alcohol. Echoing The Wonder Years, Vizzini's adult self comments on his high school self by way of sidebars, which sometimes include Web addresses for more information. He comments on his lame attempt to sleep with his girlfriend during his senior year, "I felt so bad about being high-pressure that I became no-pressure, never discussing it, never bringing it up." Black-and-white cartoons interspersed throughout the text give the book a "zine" feel. This surefire title is bright, insightful, and thoroughly charming.-Laura Glaser, Euless Junior High School, TX Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
I started writing this book because of my backpack. I took a bright teal, super-dorky backpack to high school, a backpack my mother had ordered years earlier from L.L. Bean. It worked so great throughout junior high that I figured it had a year or two left in it.
My backpack got some looks. People would stare at it, wondering, "What kind of idiot wears an accessory like that?" Then they would see me. "Oh."
One day, I was going down one of my high school's escalators. I was tired. I took off my backpack and put it next to me on an escalator step. For whatever reason, the backpack flipped over and started rolling down like a Slinky.
Many steps below stood a girl. She had one hand to her face, as if she were on a cell phone, but she had no actual phone. We were the only people on the escalator. The backpack kept tumbling (I watched it sort of helplessly) and whapped her in the back of the calves.
The girl stopped talking on her fake phone and turned to look at me. She had to take that look: I could've been a cute guy who'd flung my backpack at her to break the ice. She sized me up, cocked her head, and kicked my backpack as hard as she could the rest of the way down.
When I reached the bottom, I picked up my backpack and thought about it for the rest of the day. On the subway ride home, I pulled out a wrinkled piece of paper and wrote about the cell-phone girl and my stupid bag. I wrote angrily; I used a lot of curses. Afterward, I felt a lot better, and when I read my words the next day, I thought theywere pretty good.
So I went from writing profanity-ridden rants to slightly less profanity-ridden essays. I was able to get some of them published in a local newspaper, New York Press. Soon I was writing on a regular basis, taking my boring, scary, embarrassing high school moments and turning them into something people could read about. It was a real comfortif something weird or horrible happened to me, I'd write about it, and then somehow I'd be in control. A little.
In 1998, I got a piece published in The New York Times Magazine. That got me in touch with Free Spirit Publishing, who gave me this book contract, which I signed, and now somehow I'm here, writing this introduction after polishing most of what I wrote in high school and organizing it chronologically.
I threw out that backpack when I was a junior and replaced it with a bag from the army surplus store.
I never did learn the name of the girl.
Brooklyn, New York
My school had seven sets of escalators. It was a high school specializing in math and science, so I guess they figured we deserved escalators.
If you want to write to me about my book, you can reach me at Free Spirit Publishing Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 616 Minneapolis, MN 55401-1724. Or email me at: help4kids@ freespirit.com