Note to Self

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Note to Self Book Poster Image
YouTuber's thoughtful poems, essays seek connection.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Difference between depression and sadness explained. Descriptions of what being depressed feels like may inspire empathy. Some suggestions of ways to support and help friends who are depressed.

Positive Messages

We connect and relate to each other by sharing and talking about universal experiences. Sharing your feelings lightens the load and makes you feel less alone. Mental illness should not be stigmatized. Talk about it, reach out to others, and get help: You don't have to take on the world alone. You can overcome fear by acknowledging it and moving forward. Knowing you've grown and changed is very satisfying. Men loving men and women loving women is normal and beautiful. Spread love, kindness, and empathy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Franta's a good role model for learning to be true to yourself and living openly and honestly. Encourages treating everyone with kindness and empathy. Wants to destigmatize therapy and seeking help for mental illness. Encourages making connections with people by sharing universal experiences and emotions. Matter-of-fact about teen and young-adult drinking, night clubs, and "hookup" culture without mentioning any dangers or pitfalls of social media. Encourages people to put down their phones sometimes, be in the moment, and make a real connection with a real person.

Violence

A couple of mentions that Franta thought about suicide at one point. He understands that coming out as gay might be dangerous for some people and cautions not to unless you're safe.

Sex

A few mentions of kissing. A chapter about a breakup also focuses on Franta coming to grips with his sexuality; there's no explicit language or descriptions. A poem title includes "hookups," but nothing specific is mentioned and the overall impression is negative. Mentions tipping strippers in bars. Mentions that some people go to bars and nightclubs hoping to find someone to "share the night" with. Says that, thanks to social media and mobile apps, sex is available instantly now, but author isn't a big fan of online dating. 

Language

"F--k," "f--king," "wtf," "bitch," "ass," "damn," "godammit," and "s--t."

Consumerism

A heart emoticon to thank Twitter for giving him a sweater. Waze, Uber, and Prius mentioned incidentally.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Beers and going to breweries, going to a gay bar for the first time, missing going out to bars as a teen. Says alcohol and drugs are available instantly because they can be arranged for with mobile devices. Acid (LSD) is used in a simile.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Note to Self is a series of essays, poems, and photos by popular YouTuber Connor Franta, who also wrote the best-selling memoir A Work in Progress. It's frank about how much better his life is now that he's out of the closet. Sexual content is mild and infrequent, with a couple of kisses mentioned and some talk about "hookup" culture as negative. A couple of times he mentions having thought about suicide. He wants to destigmatize mental illness and encourages readers to talk about it, to seek help, and not to think there's something wrong with people in therapy. He's matter-of-fact about teens and young adults going to bars. The strongest messages are about making genuine emotional connections with real people (put down your phone!) and connecting with others through universal feelings and experiences.

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What's the story?

NOTE TO SELF is a collection of essays, poems, and photographs that capture a range of author and popular YouTuber Connor Franta's thoughts, feelings, dreams, life lessons, and more. Together they weave a sort of story about coming out of the closet, having your heart broken, struggling with depression, and eventually learning to live with depression, or in spite of it. Franta hopes that looking back at his thoughts and feelings at particular moments will help him better understand himself and help him and his readers better understand the world and what we all have in common.

Is it any good?

Connor Franta’s engaging collection of essays, poems, and photos will inspire fans and newcomers alike to look at themselves and how they’ll face the challenges and joys of early adulthood. Mature teens and young adults will a lot to reflect on, as they’re figuring out how to be true to themselves, how to cope with life's ups and downs, and how they have and will change during an important, formative time in their lives.

Connor Franta's a good writer. Whether sad, funny, exhilarated, depressed, or anything in between, his voice feels honest. The photos and poems that punctuate each essay add insight, interest, and deeper understanding of what Franta was experiencing in the moment. Readers will be encouraged to make connections to their own experiences and feelings and to make connections with others in turn.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in Note to Self. Which ones resonate the most with you? How about making real connections, what it's like to be depressed, or how painful breakups are? 

  • Does the profanity seem realistic to you? Does it put you off?

  • Have you ever been depressed, lived with mental illness, or know someone who has experienced either? If it was you, did you get help? How would you seek help if it happens again? How can you help a friend who's struggling?

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