CRINGE: TEENAGE DIARIES, JOURNALS, NOTES, LETTERS, POEMS, AND ABANDONED ROCK OPERAS edited by Sarah Brown (Crown), 240 pages, $25.95 cloth. Rating: NNN
Playing on the archivist, exhibitionist and confessor in us all comes Cringe.
Edited by Sarah Brown, founder of the Cringe reading series, and created in the spirit of PostSecret and FOUND, Cringe compiles the most shudder-worthy and splendid excerpts from about 50 contributors' teenage diaries, neatly sectioned into chapters such as Self-Help, Melodrama, Letters To Famous People and Last Wills And Testaments.
Since these post-Gen-X musings are all based in 1990s adolescence in America, pop-cult references range from declarations of love to Gavin Rossdale to how to distribute one's troll dolls in case of death. Amy Grant is considered a sensation, and the Fresh Prince is still a rap phenomenon.
Contributors include Heeb publisher Joshua Neuman, Blender editor Elizabeth Goodman and Found creator Davy Rothbart - which is to say a number of considerable names.
But the writers are mostly 27 to 32, white, Jewish and liberal. The idea that these are the only people with comical anecdotes to share is tired. And because of its lack of diversity, Cringe maintains the same tone throughout, even if it is amusing and endearing.
Everything here is a punchline or pull quote, and the laugh-a-minute vibe makes it overwhelming to read. That's not to say that, on their own, snippets from girls hoping their melancholy journals will make it to Anne Frank-level fame (more than one person directly references Frank) are not funny.
Brown gets it right in her intro when she remarks on what might be the most bewildering of teenage qualities - the incredible buoyancy with which they face the world.
"God hates me, my parents are divorcing, but I love the Cure," one diarist writes.
If only we aged with such resiliency.