Did you hear? Jen Mann’s book, People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges, is finally out! I was able to read an advance copy, because I’ve fooled someone along the way into thinking I’m kind of a big deal. This, assuredly, is not the case, but I’m not saying shit, because I’m getting free books out of this misunderstanding.
For starters, the book came in the mail, which was very exciting, because I love mail. So, this book already had that going for it. Plus, the cover art is awesome. As a librarian, I can tell you that you absolutely should judge a book by its cover. If the cover art is boring, or poorly done, it means someone didn’t give enough of a shit about the book to hire a good graphic designer. Plus, nobody wants to check out a book with a plain cover. I don’t care if the book reveals the legit location of Jimmy Hoffa’s body with a coupon for free cupcakes for life — if it doesn’t have a nice color picture on the front, it’s not budging from the shelf. Jen’s pretty cover art will have you thinking, “Mmmm cupcakes! But wait! That cupcake fell on the ground. I don’t like that. Maybe I can read her book and find out why the hell she would waste a perfectly good cupcake like that.” You can’t, though, because that’s not actually what the book is about. You’ll just have to wonder forever whether or not she picked the cupcake up after the photo session and ate it (probably not, but real talk? I would).
After I admired the cover, I started reading. Then I kept reading after the first page, even though I swore I would stop because it was already 5:00 pm and that’s when I’m supposed to start cooking dinner, or else it throws off my entire nighttime schedule of dinner/baths/snack/bedtime. But then I read one more page. Then I read the next chapter. Then I looked at the clock after the fourth chapter, and it was 6:00 pm and I hadn’t even started cooking dinner. So I put some bullshit dinner together of PB&J and fruit and got baths started. Which was good, because that meant I could finish a few more chapters while I “supervised” baths.
First and foremost, the stories are just so goddamn funny. There’s too many moments for me to count — finding out why she was so popular on AOL, her coworker’s Fourth of July party that gave a whole new meaning to the term “networking”, lusting for a minivan of her own, and how to properly attend a sex toy party. But really there’s moments in each chapter that I found myself re-reading a line over and over, resisting the urge (unsuccessfully) to text a line to a friend that I thought would appreciate it most.
This book is so good. I mean, the kind of good that makes you jealous that you didn’t write it yourself. Jen’s writing style makes you feel like you’re already a member of her inner circle: she can be straight with you about what she really thinks about things because you guys have already gotten past all the fake polite conversations, sent out the feelers to see if the other person’s cool or not, and decided to stop being polite and start being real. It’s conversationally funny, not “I am here writing a funny essay about living in the suburbs” funny. Jen’s telling you a hilarious story, and she swears sometimes because when you’re telling your friends a story, you swear sometimes. But here’s the thing: that kind of writing style is deceptively difficult to pull off. Most people who try writing in this style can’t do it well, and certainly can’t tell an entertaining story. It reads like she simply typed out the story the way she would tell it at a backyard barbecue, but I’m here to tell you that it’s fucking hard to write in this style. Jen does it and does it well.
So go ahead and treat yourself to one last thing before you start shopping for other people: buy People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Competitive Crafters, Drop-Off Despots, and Other Suburban Scourges today. I promise you that after you finish reading it, you’ll buy five more copies as gifts for your friends. Or, if you’re like me, you’ll want to, but instead just tell all your friends to buy it themselves, because I’m too broke to be buying my friends books just for fun. Then you’ll get exasperated that they haven’t and buy it for them for Christmas. THERE, dummy. WHY DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING FOR YOU?
I might need to re-examine my ideas about gift-giving.
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