First-time author Rips, a high school senior who lives with her parents in New York’s legendary Chelsea Hotel, reflects on her earlier years attending public schools in the city and befriending the many eccentric residents at the hotel.
In this delightful coming-of-age memoir, the author draws a portrait of her younger self as the ultimate outsider. Lacking traditional good looks, physically and often socially awkward, she was eager to make friends, yet her frequent attempts to fit in typically led to embarrassing results, her desire to be popular spiraling further away. In contrast to her challenging school life, she found it easy to connect with her neighbors. She has been accepting of their eccentricities and attuned to some of their own struggles: “our home was in the Chelsea Hotel, known for its writers, artists, and musicians, but also for its drug addicts, alcoholics, and eccentrics. At any given time, at least one from each group was in the lobby. Since there were few children in the hotel, it was with these people that I spent my time.” Her story progresses through a series of comedic episodes at school or within her home/hotel setting, and she vividly depicts each of the various characters she has encountered along the way. She writes about the many self-absorbed, narcissistic teachers and classmates (along with their obsessively hovering parents), while her neighbors come across as free-spirited and openly caring individuals—as do her parents, who can also be somewhat scatterbrained: “They were like balloons that had escaped a child’s grasp—pointlessly floating.” Rips is a gifted writer who quickly reveals a mature, nuanced insight into human behavior. She has a genuine talent for extracting comic potential within these encounters, yet she balances them with moments of surprising poignancy.
An engaging story with a big heart, written by a young adult whose sharply tuned and often witty observations will appeal to adults and teens alike.