Crown Publishing Group: American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West by Nate Blakeslee

Everything Is Awful: And Other Observations

"Everything is copy," the late Nora Ephron's screenwriter mother famously told her. Everything Is Awful is the response from social media fixture, comic and Ephron disciple Matt Bellassai.

The 21 autobiographical essays in Bellassai's first book flow roughly chronologically, starting with a harrowing tale of juvenile embarrassment ("I was six years old when I last peed my pants") and never letting up. The first half of the collection focuses on Bellassai's suburban Chicago childhood, spent as a hefty, athletically challenged kid suffering fairly universal middle-class traumas (orthodontia, torturesome family vacations, nerd status). His stories call to mind a millennial's R-rated Wonder Years. Then it's on to first-world adult trials, including fashion woes (Bellassai used to wear cargo jorts--"What did I keep in them? Definitely not my dignity") and the time the cameraman trained his lens on the wrong guy when Bellassai won a People's Choice Award for Favorite Social Media Star.

All this bummer content is indeed good copy because it's filtered through the mind of a natural wit. Especially sturdy are Bellassai's pieces on coming to terms with being gay and, before he comes out, falling in love with his straight best friend. At one point, he's reduced to hiding in the friend's dorm room--"a closeted gay lunatic sitting on the ground of a literal closet." Lest the reader consider taking Bellassai's plight too seriously, he hastens to note, "I was a strange person to begin with, so hiding in a closet, all things considered, didn't register as insane." --Nell Beram, freelance writer and author