About the Book

Title: Notes to Boys (And Other Things I Shouldn’t Share in Public)
Published: 2013
Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Cover Story: Old School Message Delivery
BFF Charm: Heck Yes
Talky Talk: Note to Self
Bonus Factors: You’re Not Alone, The Olden Days
Relationship Status: Friends, Together Forever

Cover Story: Old School Message Delivery

The cover is simple – an old Polaroid showing a heart-shaped note (I think?) on the hood of someone’s car. It is, blessedly, not a cover that I would be embarrassed to take on public transportation.

The Deal

This is Pamela Ribon’s memoir (yes, non-fictional!) about coming of age in a small Texas town, pre-internet. She uses all of her EXTRA DRAMATIC and VERY SERIOUS diaries, poetry, and love letters to the boys she’s met (or perhaps has just seen briefly on the bus and decided that he was THE ONE) to illustrate what it’s like to be a fifteen-year-old girl. As most of us have experienced (I assume), being fifteen can really suck, with all the horrifyingly intense emotions, insecurity, and the desire to just fit in; Ribon’s fifteen-year-old self decides that boys are the answer to these emotions, and writing them letters is her way of wooing them. Exposing your dark and tortured soul is most definitely the way to any high school boy’s heart!

In addition to the lighthearted yet incredibly awkward letters and anecdotes, Ribon occasionally deals with serious subjects, such as self-harm, the effects of sexual trauma, and abuse. What I liked about this was that it illustrates the very real horrors high school students can experience without venturing into After School Special territory. 

BFF Charm: Heck Yes

BFF Charm Heck Yes - sparklier and shinier than the original BFF Charm

I found myself relating to both fifteen-year-old Pam as well as grown-up Pam’s observations – what seemed so important as a teenager I find hilarious now. Like Ribon, my fifteen-year-old self was oh so dramatic, felt like a misfit, and had (ahem) excellent taste in music (Trent Reznor, the stuff of dark adolescent fantasy! Not that I’m listening to NIN as I write this or anything). I think a female friend like Little Pam would have done Little Jennie a world of good, and as an adult, I would give grown-up Pam my BFF charm in a heartbeat. (Grown-up Pam did roller derby, according to her author bio, and I just got my first pair of really nice skates! Clearly, it’s meant to be.)

Swoonworthy Scale: 3

Unless you’re in The Carrie Diaries or The Vampire Diaries, high school boys are usually emotionally immature and not exactly swoonworthy. The same can be said about Ribon’s potential suitors – some of them are clearly sweet and well-meaning, but oh, no. So much no.

The best part, however, is the end of the book, where Present Pam gets in touch with two of her love-note recipients. After over fifteen years, significant distance, marrying other people, and having children, their responses are full of the sweetness and maturity that fifteen year old boys often can’t quite muster. 

Talky Talk: Note to Self

Ribon calls her teenage self “Little Pam” or “LP,” and often asks Little Pam what the hell she was thinking. Little Pam’s feelings are obviously real, and oh-so-relatable, but at the same time utterly ridiculous. Little Pam is prone to writing love letters to boys that she hasn’t spoken to, and waxing poetic on everything from wanting to feel some dude’s breath on her face (no) to Johnny Depp (when he was hot).

Little Pam: I want to sprinkle snowflakes on your tongue. I want to paint your room a sunrise and tuck you in with a sunset. I want to capture nature’s elements and store them in a box for your leisure.

Present Pam: I want you trapped in my basement where I clothe you in “elements” and force you to eat snow.

Page 129

Present Pam: I don’t know how many of you out there reading this happen to be fifteen. But if you are and somehow you’re unlucky enough to be like, even a third as dorky as I was, please know that it gets better. Just not for like, a bajillion years. And I know it’s SO NOT FUNNY right now, how you feel, and everybody who laughs at you can just go suck it.

Page 32

There is also a part in which Present Pam compares certain parts of her teenage suitors’ (for lack of a better polite word) anatomies to Coke bottles and Snausages. I’m so glad I wasn’t reading this in public, for I damn near choked.

This book made me sincerely glad that, while I got the internet in ’95 or ‘96, although I was in a Notes to Boys-type age, most of my ridiculousness stayed offline.

Bonus Factor: You’re Not Alone

Oh, so other people burned candles and wrote terrible poetry while clutching rose quartz crystals? I AM NOT ALONE!

Bonus Factor: The Olden Days

Back in the dark ages, before the internet, we had things like landlines (with “long-distance charges”), snail mail, and taping songs off the radio. Reading this was an amusing reminder of life before I was online – and how hard it could be to find kindred spirits in the real world.

Relationship Status: Friends, Together Forever

Book, I loved you. You were a hilarious, wince-inducing trip down memory lane for me, and I think while we might be better off married to other people, you made me smile. You clearly understood me in ways that others do not. You also ensured that I do not regret whatsoever burning my journal from age 13.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from Rare Bird Books. I received neither money nor a pet unicorn for writing this review, despite how hard I wished for one. Notes to Boys will be available February 11.