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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

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  71 ratings  ·  11 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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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.
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 3 of 5 stars
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 19, 2008 Callie rated it 4 of 5 stars
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!
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.
Romane Dela Gracia
Everybody felt what the people inside this book felt.

At least everyone gets to experience that phase or road.

Funny, sad, and compelling.
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
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.
really good but not as good as the John Hughes one. not surprising as nothing is ever as good as John Hughes.
Surprisingly smart collection of essays on surviving high school. Not all great, but many thought provoking.
supposedly YA, but i see adults enjoying this more.

freaking hilarious. that is all.
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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
More about John McNally...
The Book of Ralph: A Novel After the Workshop: A Novel America's Report Card Troublemakers Ghosts of Chicago

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