11.10.2014

YES PLEASE by Amy Poehler, 329 pp, RL: YA



I am reviewing Amy Poehler's book, YES PLEASE, because I have been a fan of comedy since I was a very young child (see my sloppily personal review of Caitlin Moran's novel How to Build a Girl) but I am also reviewing it because I think that all girls and young women need successful, smart, women they can look up to as role models, mentors and/or trailblazers on paths that they themselves might like to follow. And if comedy isn't your thing but you have daughters or are a teenager girl reading this, scroll down to learn about Smart Girls at the Party. Girls need to hear from the women who went before them. They need to hear that it's ok to tell someone (a man who is a superior) that he is wrong about something and that it's ok to say "no" to a hug from him or any other superior. Girls need to hear stories from women who have made mistakes, seen the other side of a situation and made apologies. Girls need to hear that things get better, there is wisdom in getting older and that it is important to build a good team, which Poehler does in YES PLEASE, which has a stellar cast of contributors (especially the fantastic audio, which has cameos by Carol Burnett, Kathleen Turner and Patrick Stewart) like Seth Meyers and Amy's parents. And being a mentor for girls is important to Poehler, who is one of the three co-founders of Smart Girls at the Party, an organization that began as a webseries of shows meant to empower and inspire young women. Smart Girls at the Party has grown into a website-hang-out that is a place for "information, comedy and community," with the motto, "Change the World By Being Yourself," with the goal of providing "a healthy alternative to so much that is being marketed to young people on the internet. We emphasize intelligence and imagination over 'fitting in.' We celebrate curiosity over gossip. We are a place where people can truly be their weird and wonderful selves." Poehler walks the walk in YES PLEASE, telling stories that share moments of embarrassment and enlightenment about her weird and wonderful self and sharing her intelligence and imagination on every page.

As a fan of comedy, specifically Saturday Night Live, I have read and listened to Tina Fey's Bossypants so many times that I immediately got the joke when, in the chapter titled, "Plain Girl vs. the Demon," Poehler mentions being grateful for her "strong nail beds" (Fey listed "bad nail beds," among the long and ridiculous list of physical failings that we women criticize ourselves for.) And, being a fan, it was hard not to compare the literary debuts by these amazing women in which they share stories from their lives and the same encouragements to love who you are and do what you want. But, they are different people and they do share in very different, wonderful ways. Poehler happens to be the kind of woman and story-teller who is great at giving advice and telling people what to do - in the best way possible. She tells/writes it how it is, sometimes in a quick and dirty, shout-y kind of way, but in a way that gets through to you and sticks with you. You can tell that Poehler is the kind of friend who will comfort you when you are down, tell you to knock it off when it turns into wallowing. Poehler is so open and engaging that reading/listening to YES PLEASE feels more like spending the afternoon with a friend than getting a glimpse into a celebrity's life. Speaking of celebrities, Poehler has this amazing way of name-dropping that is completely down to earth...

While there is a fair bit of content in YES PLEASE that may not immediately resonate with a young adult reading this book, like her chapter titled, "Every Mother Needs a Wife," or another where she beautifully, movingly, writes about her children, Poehler's insights and observations lay the groundwork and/or plant seeds that will sprout into ideas and advice that will serve girls well later in life. Like Tina Fey, improv is deeply ingrained in Poehler's approach to life. In Bossypants Fey writes that the "first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always SAY YES. . . the Rule of Agreement reminds you to 'respect what your partner has created' and to at least start from an open-minded place. Start with YES and see where that takes you." Fey goes on to share the second rule which is "not only to say yes, but YES, AND. . . To me, YES, AND means don't be afraid to contribute. It's your responsibility to contribute. Always make sure you are adding something to the discussion. Your initiations are worthwhile." This is SUCH an valuable idea for girls and young women to hear that it's is completely worth adding on to with Poehler's perspective. Poehler says that the "yes" comes from improv and the "opportunity that comes with youth, and the 'please' comes from the wisdom of knowing that agreeing to do something usually means you aren't doing it alone. . . 'Yes please' sounds powerful and concise. It's a response and a request. It's not about being a good girl, it's about being a real woman." I love idea of not doing something alone and teamwork that Poehler weaves throughout YES PLEASE.

Also, YES PLEASE is divided and visually presented in ways that I have no doubt will appeal to young adult readers. "Say Whatever You Want," "Do Whatever You Want" and "Be Whoever You Are," are the titles of the three sections of YES PLEASEwhich has a scrapbook feel to it with childhood snapshots, newspaper clipping, poems, report cards and other memorabilia along with items from adulthood like scripts, lists, charts, haiku about plastic surgery and personal photos. Add to this the big, bold chapters headings and portraits of Amy in character as variously curious people that make the book hard to put down. Like Fey's book and Caitlin Moran's book of essays, How to Be a Woman, and her novel, I will be giving YES PLEASE to my daughter, who is now twenty-one. I wish these books had been around for me to give to her when she was in high school and really needed to hear that it's ok to be who she is and that she doesn't have to be the woman that society and the media is making her believe she should be. But, she is still young and fresh enough as a college student that the messages are not lost on her. And they will not be lost on your daughters either. 

Source: Review Copy

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