Booktalk: Dear Diary by Lesley Arfin

You might be wondering why I wrote a booktalk for Dear Diary, when the cover is going to sell it to even the most reluctant readers without me even saying a word.  Yes, but … this book is shelved in the nonfiction section, where many teens who should read this book will never know to look for it.  Also, I wanted to booktalk it because many teens are dying to read real-life survivor stories.  There are so many teens out there who’ve read books like Dave Pelzer’s A Child Called It and who want more books like that — books about people who went through terrible ordeals and managed to survive them — but the books have to be REAL.  I’ve spent a lot of time scouring through my autobiographies and my 300’s section looking for books that will fit the bill.  FWIW, I’m recommending Dear Diary for older teens rather than younger ones because of the mature language and subject matter, so you might want to read it yourself before sharing it with your favorite teen readers.

If you’re interested in learning more about Lesley Arfin and Dear Diary, you can visit her website, read an interview she did with Gothamist, and even check out a “mix tape” of music that Lesley recommends as a Dear Diary soundtrack.


If you read the back cover of this book, you’ll find the description that this is “a collection of a girl’s funniest diary entries from 12 to 25 years old.”  But I don’t entirely agree.  Some of these entries are laugh-out-loud funny, and some are “Oh my God” funny … but a lot of them aren’t funny at all.  Lesley Arfin’s life was a mess during most of her teenage years.  She spent a lot of time trying to fit in and a lot of time worrying about what other people thought of her.  When she was a teenager, Lesley experimented with alcohol, marijuana, crystal meth, special K, ecstasy, acid, cocaine, Xanax, and mescaline.  But it was heroin that led to her becoming an full-blown drug addict.  She was high at her college graduation.  She was high before, during, and after her Narcotics Anonymous meetings.  She was high on September 11th, 2001 when her primary concern wasn’t the people in the towers, or even if World War III was starting.  Her main concern was, with cell phone service not working, how was she going to contact her drug dealer?

Lesley was a mess for most of her teenage years going into her early twenties.  When she was twenty-three years old, she went to rehab for the second time and finally beat her addiction to drugs.  Now that she’s twenty-eight and clean, she’s looking back at her life by looking back at her old diaries.  After each entry, Lesley gives updates on the people she wrote about.  Sometimes she contacts them by phone or email and talks to them about why they fought, or why they fell in love, or why they got high together.  Some of her friends had life-changing experiences.  One became a Jehovah’s Witness.  One is in jail for dealing drugs.  One murdered his parents and then set fire to the house to cover his tracks.  One combined alcohol, cocaine, and Oxycontin and went into a coma.  But many of the people she mentions in her diary aren’t updated at all.  Some of these people refused to talk to her.  Some of them moved away and she couldn’t find them.  Some of them are dead, either by accident or by overdose.

Lesley Arfin survived her childhood.  Find out how, and find out why.

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