Jenny Lawson’s You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds: Self-Help Coloring Book Is Profanely Profound

Jenny Lawson’s new book, You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds, hits shelves March 7, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time for me. Like 40 million other American adults, I have an anxiety disorder—it’s not who I am; it’s just something I have, like brown hair or farsightedness or the Moana soundtrack stuck in my head.

Like a bunch of us, one of the things I do to cope with the disorder is take medication for it. Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, my medication stopped working—it happens sometimes. So imagine my sheer delight when, while waiting for the new med to start doing its job, a handy self-help coloring book (totally a real thing) lands on my doorstep, and it’s by none other than the hilariously candid, awesomely quirky, fellow mental-illness-haver Jenny Lawson. If you’re not familiar with Lawson’s writing, you should probably call in sick to work, hole up in a pillow fort, and dive into this woman’s wonderful and weird world: Her taxidermy collection includes a pegasus and at least two maniacally smiling raccoons. She brought a koala costume all the way to Australia in hopes of wearing it while holding a real koala. She’s afraid of finding dead bodies in public bathroom stalls. And she once fended off some neighborhood swans who allegedly wanted to eat her.

Lawson is the writer behind popular blog The Bloggess and author of bestselling memoirs Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, which details her eccentric upbringing by a taxidermist father with a propensity for bringing home roadkill, and Furiously Happy, a funny, irreverent, and honest collection of essays about Lawson’s struggles with and triumphs over depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

Her new book, You Are Here, is a somewhat different beast but every bit as magical. It’s still her voice, her heart, her humor on the page, but it’s only part narrative. It’s also part therapy—the kind that won’t cost you $150 an hour—part inspirational quotes, with some pages containing only two lines of funny, earnest, touching, and sometimes profane insights; and part grown-up coloring book, made up of Lawson’s own doodles of patterns, faces, and words created while waiting for an anxiety attack to pass.

Another thing that sets this book apart from Lawson’s others is that it’s not just the tribe leader speaking to the members—you’re part of this. You are here. You, the reader, are necessary to create and finish this weird and wonderful book written by your bizarro BFF who just gets you. You can fill in the intricate black-and-white drawings with your own world of color; complete lists Lawson has started for you—like the five most outrageous things you’ve done, at least one of which is a lie; oust your demons by writing your fears on a completely black page and then ripping it from the book; and even draw your own doodles.

I laughed out loud and cried—also out loud—while reading Lawson’s words and examining the pictures and her captions. And I’m excited to actually put gel pens to paper to color in these amazing images of whales, a knife-wielding pigeon, wacky women, and a bonnet-wearing T-rex, among others. Here’s hoping my OCD and perfectionism will allow me to push through and actually color the pictures without fear of ruining their beauty—something I think Lawson herself would say just isn’t possible.

Mental illness tells us we are lost, unworthy, broken, and will never be whole. Mental illness lies. But Lawson doesn’t. Her honesty, humor, and vulnerability in this book will inspire you. And many of the vignettes in You Are Here will undoubtedly nestle into your brain and stay awhile. This is the one that has permanently set up residency in mine and perfectly sums up the power of this slim volume:

“Once upon a time, there was a girl who forgot the rest of her story so she had to make it up as she went along. She kept it a secret all of her life. And one day when she was 99 she whispered this very confession to her husband. He paused and smiled kindly and told her that everyone was just making it up as they went along. And she was happy and sad all at once, and also a little bit relieved that she hadn’t known it all along. And that was the end.”

You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds is on B&N bookshelves now.

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