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John McNally has made a career of writing about the embarrassments, anxieties, and challenges of adolescence, most notably in his 2004 novel, The Book of Ralph, and his 2000 story collection, Troublemakers. So who better to edit a new collection of essays on the subject? McNally's own hilarious contribution to When I Was a Loser: True Stories of (Barely) Surviving High School (Free Press) traces the fluctuations of both his hairstyle and his weight from kindergarten through high school, when the pathologically shy former fat kid comes face-to-face (sorta) with the "knee-weakening power of cleavage." Other contributors include Elizabeth Crane, who obsesses over appearance and dress while her best friend Nina turns into a hottie practically overnight, and Julianna Baggot, who contends with the realization that she herself has turned into a hottie practically overnight; and Brad Land's "Boner" and Michelle Richmond's "Putting Out" present sexual coming-of-age stories that more than a few readers should be able to relate to. But not all the pieces are so carefree: Zelda Lockhart (coming to the Newberry Library in June with her novel Cold Running Creek) writes about growing up gay on the west side of Saint Louis with an abusive father and a disapproving family. Of the set, hers is the real survival story. McNally will be joined by Crane as well as Donald Evans, author of the gambling novel Good Money After Bad. a Thu 4/19, 7:30 PM, Barnes & Noble, 1441 W. Webster, 773-861-3610.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Amy Knox Brown.

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