Smells Like Teen Spirit*


1990s. A decade of Nintendo, Beavis & Butthead, and MTV. For the 19-year old Ned Vizzini, it was a decade for a nerdy young adult to pick the "weapon" and choose that dangerous path to manhood-- in short, a perfect time to define the youthful stage of life once and for all.

Ned published this book in 2002 from his collection of teenage writings and high school anecdotes. All of us have been there and done that. It was a journey into the wild and wacky world of parents and siblings, video games, Magic Cards, dorky backpacks, "Stuy" Tests, demolition derby, alternative music, grunge, Nirvana, Garbage, Pearl Jam, walkman, karate and marathon challenges, home made videos and VHS, Christian Camps and punk chicks, Jimi Hendrix and his ultra wicked guitar playing skills (like he was doin' his mama), turnstile juveniles, snowboarding and broken bones, house painting, Prom nights, Hooters restaurants, and last but not the least--girlfriend.

Ned effortlessly retells it in a simple and real way, just like a friend tells you about past misadventures and conquests. It was revealing and very funny too.

some memorable passages:

When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, "A cartographer or a civil engineer." Those professions were specific enough to sound smart but vague enough to conceal my real career goal: playing video games.  

Ever since fifth grade, when that girl Rebecca told me I danced like a cricket, I've been a professional wallflower. I like it, in  a perverse way. Standing by the wall, surrounded by other nerdy nondancers, a sort of camaraderie forms. It's safe there, much safer than on the floor.

I finally came home drunk. I was happy about this because Matt Groening, in Work is Hell, lists the twenty-five steps to manhood, and "first time drunk" is number seventeen, right after "first compulsive m@5turb@tion" and just before "first car accident." I had to do it sooner or later.

I wanted a girlfriend all through high school, and when I finally got one, it was confusing and weird and stressful. But it also lived up to the hype, and that's rare. Pot didn't live up to its hype. Cigarettes didn't. The girl did.

I was still a virgin. That was something I worried about every day; something I had worried about since I was thirteen or fourteen; something that particularly worried me because the average American male loses his virginity at sixteen.

Rating: 4 wallflowers
Genre: YA, Quasi-Autobiography

*with apologies to a great 90's band---Nirvana

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