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

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  80 Ratings  ·  12 Reviews
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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published March 6th 2007 by Free Press (first published March 2nd 2007)
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Feb 13, 2008 Polly rated it it was amazing
Some of the most brilliant lines ever written are contained in this book. Such as:

"But really. Anyone who punches his brother in the face (and larynx, and then runs away) is a loser."

"I had never heard of a boy being sad and naked at the same time, let alone adopted."

So many more juicy ones. So good.
Apr 04, 2012 Marsha rated it it was amazing
Here they are: the humiliating, tooth-grinding, cringing mistakes, faux pases and social inflictions you made or experienced back in high school. Guess what? They were all suffered by other people, people who actually wrote down for the public view instead of mercifully burying it in a diary somewhere.

If you thought you were the only nerd, geek, fool, slut, or desperate brainiac just trying to make it through the day without getting your butt kicked, then this book will make you feel just a teen
Jul 23, 2008 Lori rated it liked it
Recommends it for: losers and those who love them
As a connoisseur of loserdom, I could not resist this one. As others have pointed out, some contributions are more solid than others. It was a quick read and will invoke many memories of high school humiliation for fellow travelers who can't afford the therapy.

My take was that this was definitely a collection for adults who can look back on their loser-selves from a safe distance. It may bring actual teens some perspective (as in, there is life after the ritual torture of middle school/high scho
Mar 01, 2016 Derek rated it liked it
Some very good stories hidden behind a terrible cover. A great number of the essays in the collection are funny and poignant, as well as uncomfortably familiar. A sameness starts to plague the book in the second half and a few writers seem to lose the thread a little as they dig up old grudges and drag them into the light. Overall, though, When I Was a Loser is an enjoyable chronicle of adolescence in America at the end of the twentieth century. It's reassuring to learn that so many of us carry ...more
Jan 26, 2008 Callie rated it really liked it
Recommended to Callie by: Saw it in Katie's To-Read's
A somewhat mixed bag with several real stand-outs. I'm a sucker for the coming of age/high school genre and this collection definitely did the trick. John McNally asked 24 authors to contribute a glimpse into their own high school experience; and boy, did they ever deliver. The section "In God We Trust" came a little too close to home. I also LOVED the very last story "Dancing in the Dark"- all too familiar!
Jul 11, 2015 Carolyn rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
Lots of reasons to pick up this book. Great contemporary writers (Elizabeth Crane, Tod Goldberg, Julianna Baggott, the editor John McNally, among others) you may already be reading, great introduction to others you haven’t read (my list of books to check out just grew exponentially. no joke.). High school humiliations: so preciously painful when thinking of your own, so histerically hilarious when reading of other people’s. What’s not to love?
Nov 16, 2007 Carrie rated it liked it
hit and miss collection. LOVED Maud Newton's essay.

The library where I checked this out has it cataloged and shelved under Young Adult. I don't agree with this, not because of the content, but I think the intended audience is other adults. I can see how teens could enjoy the collection and get something out of it, but I don't think it belongs in YA.
Tattered Cover Book Store
This book is on the bibliography of books challenged, restricted, removed or banned in 2007-2008 put out by Robert P. Doyle and the American Library Association. More info at
Mar 22, 2008 Npaw rated it really liked it
really good but not as good as the John Hughes one. not surprising as nothing is ever as good as John Hughes.
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.
Nov 17, 2008 Yana rated it really liked it
Surprisingly smart collection of essays on surviving high school. Not all great, but many thought provoking.
Jan 05, 2014 Romane rated it it was amazing
Everybody felt what the people inside this book felt.

At least everyone gets to experience that phase or road.

Funny, sad, and compelling.
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John McNally is the author of three novels (After the Workshop, America's Report Card and The Book of Ralph) and two story collections (Ghosts of Chicago and Troublemakers). He's written two books on writing: Vivid and Continuous: Essays and Exercise for Writing Fiction and The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist He's edited six fiction anthologies, on subjects ra ...more
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