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

51ucpbnb-hl-_sx324_bo1204203200_It will come as a shock to absolutely nobody that I was a loser in high school.  And if I am being completely candid, I preferred the title “dork,” but that is an inside joke between me and a very good friend who is no longer with us, so for the sake of argument, we’ll go with loser.  Anyway, that’s what drew me to this collection of essays edited by John McNally and published in 2007 that’s about … well, they don’t exactly bury the lede on the title.

The writers featured inside have all had successful careers after their escape from the teenage wasteland (to borrow a phrase from Pete Townshend) that growing up and having to endure four years of high school can be (and yes, I realize how ironic this sentence is considering the occupations of myself and my co-host)–some of which are delightful, almost whimsical stories of combatting acne and trying to get dates, others of which are much more serious.

McNally collects the essays in sections of common themes such as dating, sex, religion, body issues, and even hair and does a good job at balancing the silly and the serious, not allowing one essay to outshine or outweigh any other, which is the mark of a good editor.

Highlights include Tod Goldberg writing about sex with his girlfriend being interrupted by Zsa Zsa Gabor’s ringing his doorbell; Kelly Braffett’s look at falling in with “freaks” in an essay she lovingly entitles “F— High School;” Zelda Lockhart’s brutally honest memories of growing up with abuse and then discovering her own sexuality; Owen (son of Stephen) King’s complicated history with varsity sports; and Dean Bakopoulos’ story about his friendship with a guy named Mack that involves driving at high speeds, alcohol, pot, and Evangelical Christianity.

If the collection has any downside, it’s that it will probably take you a good chunk of time to read, which is a blessing and a curse of essay and short story collections.  I’ve never been able to really read them in one sitting, since they are individual efforts, each of which should be given its own consideration before moving on to the next one.


You should read this book if …

  1. You’re a fan of personal narrative.
  2. You grew up watching Degrassi, My So-Called Life, Freaks and Geeks, Heathers, The Breakfast Club, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Better Off Dead …, Say Anything …, and have an appreciation for funny, honest, yet not overly maudlin or emo tales of high school.
  3. You were a loser in high school

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