When I Was a Loser: True Stories of (Barely) Surviving High School

Front Cover
John McNally
Simon and Schuster, Mar 6, 2007 - Literary Collections - 288 pages
For Anyone Who's Ever Been a Teenager

Who's teenage years weren't terrible? Remember the scary older kids? The sadistic gym teacher? The smelly kid who sat next to you in science class? Your first fumbling kiss? That time you threw up in the cafeteria? Your first attempt at putting on a condom? The period that arrived unexpectedly? That awful fight with your parents? The first time you got drunk? That note you wrote that you shouldn't have written? The day you forgot to zip your fly? That monster zit? When, you wondered, would it all end?

In When I Was a Loser, John McNally, author of the novel America's Report Card, assembles twenty-five original essays--often hilarious, sometimes tenderhearted, always evocative--about defining moments of high school loserdom. Brad Land, Julianna Baggott, Owen King, Johanna Edwards, and many more fresh, talented writers explore their own angst, humiliation, heartache, and other staples of teen life.

These essays perfectly capture what it was like to be in high school: to experience so many things for the first time, to assert independence while desperately trying to fit in, to feel misunderstood and unable to articulate the wild swings between heartbreak, anger, and euphoria. One writer recalls how his grandmother helped him with his home perm in preparation for the Senior Class picture; another recounts her discovery, sometime after hitting puberty, of the power she held over boys and men, while at the same time she felt herself at their mercy; a third remembers the casual cruelties visited on him by the cooler kids, and the cruelties he, in turn, inflicted on kids below him on the social ladder.

Utterly candid and compulsively readable, these essays conjure up and untangle those raw and formative years. The writers cringe and laugh at the teenagers they were, but at the same time, they honor their adolescence and the way it shaped their lives. Because, in truth, beneath the layers of adult respectability, we all still carry a little bit of our teenage selves around with us.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - librarybrandy - LibraryThing

3.5 stars. Not that compelling, overall, and mostly authors with whom I'm not familiar. Also, far less teen appeal than I'd have expected. Some of it's funny, some is just bland. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - tncs - LibraryThing

supposedly YA, but i see adults enjoying this more. freaking hilarious. that is all. Read full review


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About the author (2007)

John McNally is the author of two novels, The Book of Ralph and America's Report Card, and a short story collection, Troublemakers. His next book, Ghosts of Chicago, a collection of short stories, will be published this fall. A native of Chicago, he lives with his wife, Amy, in North Carolina, where he is associate professor of English at Wake Forest University. The first word he ever spoke was "Batman," who has remained, in his darker incarnations, his favorite superhero. John's first creative work, a play written in the fourth grade, featured an overweight superhero who gets stuck inside a phone booth while changing into his costume. He is happy to return to the genre, albeit thirty-four years later.

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