If you aren’t acquainted with the lady behind this book, I certainly recommend her YouTube channel ItsWayPastMyBedtime (so named for a line from the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, in which she acted as a child). She has a loyal following of ‘Hopefuls’ (so titled for their idols’ middle name) watching her videos on advice, her life, playing Eponine in the West End, videos addressed to her brother and sister-in-law, and plenty of other subjects. While on occasion I disagree with her, I like her videos and think she’s a generally positive force, particularly in the sometimes murky sea of internet ‘people’. The songs she writes and uploads are absolutely delightful, and I dare you not to feel just a little envious of her hair.
This book is an adaptation and extension on the premise of her blog by the same name (www.alliknownow.com) which she began to talk to her audience, being mostly composed of teenagers, about the things she’s learned having survived teenagerdom.
Being the same age as the author, for a lot of this book I felt a little like I was listening in on a conversation rather than participating in it. I’m not of the target demographic, and as such not really included in the generic ‘you’ that Carrie’s authorial voice spends a lot of time addressing. Honestly, I didn’t feel like I learned anything myself, but I’m not the target demographic here. In any case, I enjoyed the read, and I chuckled at several of the anecdotes she brings out to illustrate her points.
All of that being said, while reading this book there were certain passages which made me want to pass it on to people in my life who might be more in need of this advice. A lot of it is the kind of advice I try to hand out when asked, but it somehow has more authority in print, and I’m in no doubt that plenty of teens will find this book to be a very valuable resource.
I also admire the kindness and understanding with which this book was written. Occasionally the prose is a bit pretentious and sometimes grammar goes out the window, but those aren’t cardinal sins when you’re encouraging the youth, and I realise that with a degree in creative writing I’m liable to be picky! Her illustrations are very charming, and the whole book is structured like a musical with a Prologue, Epilogue, Acts and a Curtain Call. It’s gracefully put together and thoughtfully structured. Several of her experiences and thoughts did resonate with me, but again from the perspective of someone else who has made that mistake, rather than someone taking advice.
This book didn’t take me long to read, as tends to be the case for me with non-fiction. The structure and chapter list makes it easy to navigate if you just want to dip in for specific sections, or you can read it in order cover-to-cover like I did. She is always referring forward to what will be coming and backward to what she’s already said, so dropping in and out could feel like you’ve missed bits of the party, but generally I feel each section can function well as a stand-alone.
Although it didn’t make a deep impression on me, I would recommend this book if you are still going through the ‘teen age’ and feel the need for a little bit of guidance. It would probably have affected me more had I read it at a different age, or if my experiences of life had been more distinct from the author’s! In any case, it is an enjoyable read with a big heart, so well done Carrie.