Book Review: Wow, No Thank You

For the second book of my feminism theme month, I read Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby. It feels a bit like cheating to read something so fun and count it toward a serious theme, but, hey, there is some real stuff about gender roles and expectations about women’s bodies.

If you’ve read any of her previous books, this is more of the same, but in the best way. Reading her essays feels like having a long chat with a good friend—someone you talk to about how your life really is, the good stuff, the gross stuff, the weird and awkward things you do. Her authentic voice comes through so strongly that it feels like she’s right there with you as you’re reading.

I think timing strongly affects how much we enjoy books, and this one hit at just the right time. With ongoing limits on social time during the pandemic, reading a series of essays about random, mostly funny bits of life was a real comfort and substitute for actual human interaction.

One of my favorite bits: in a chapter about music of the 1990s, Irby writes: “There was an article going around in early 2019, written by a woman around my age about how she was listening to Jagged Little Pill, Alanis’s first album, which is fucking canon for angsty ‘90s teens, and now that she’s an adult, her husband made her realize that the album sucks. First of all, why you would ask a man anything is beyond me. Also, accepting his assessment of an album meant for hyperemotional girls twenty years after it came out is bullshit. Why does he care? Was “Hand in My Pocket” even written for him?”

Irby is just a year younger than I am, and while she had an entirely different child- and young-adulthood than I did, I’m generally familiar with her cultural references. Her feelings about this time of her life also hit home for me: “Sure, sex is fun, but have you ever taken off your bra at the end of a particularly grueling day?” If you’re in a completely different age bracket, this book might not be as fun for you as it was for me (although I was really into Erma Bombeck as a tween, so don’t let me discourage any prematurely (precociously?) middle-aged tweens and teens from reading this).

If you are in your late 30s/early 40s, grab your long cozy cardigan, your cat, your diet beverage, and your unhealthy snacks, and curl up with your new imaginary best friend Sam.

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