Obviously: Stories from My Timeline

Razorbill/Penguin/. Sept. 2019. 288p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781101998908.
Gr 9 Up–Hughes’s take on life is practical and ambitious, frequently vulnerable yet simultaneously assertive. It’s not simple to get an easy read on the author, which makes these essays refreshing and engaging, much like Hughes herself. From descriptions of designing a tutorial for white guys dating black girls, to directions on how to get to New York on a budget, to an explanation of how to make a YouTube video, Hughes’s tone is confessional, often conspiratorial, and she holds little back. Young adults will relate to her realness, with descriptions of pimple popping, issues with food, and the lists of scenarios that make her anxious. She is a keen detector of irony and her humor never feels formulaic, qualities which adolescent readers will appreciate. Teen readers are bound to respect Hughes’s impressive social media prowess and pop culture credibility. While the language is strong in many places, and there is an (perhaps tongue-in-cheek) encouragement to drink excessively at karaoke, for a solid role model in terms of drive, wit, and confidence, look no further.
VERDICT Hughes presents a charming and surprising essay collection. Give to avid YouTube fans or to any young person who could glean inspiration from her gumption, humor, and self-assurance.

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