Ryan Higa's How to Write Good

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Ryan Higa's How to Write Good Book Poster Image
YouTuber's engaging memoir has solid writing advice, too.

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Kids say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Definitions of grammar and writing terms, such as "prologue" and "simile." How to structure a story, what character development is, what the voice is, language use, and many other elements of writing explained with examples. Grammar and spelling mistakes called out and corrected. Includes riddle-type word problems and their answers that can only be solved by thinking creatively. 

Positive Messages

Finding something you like and really pushing yourself to get better at it helps you learn what you can accomplish when you put in the effort. Learning that you can do anything if you really care about it increases your confidence and can transform the way you see yourself. Following the rules at first teaches you fundamentals; when you've learned them you can then test the rules and make your own way. Thinking carefully and trying to figure out why something happens can help you find solutions to problems. Acknowledges the stereotype of Asian parents having extra-high expectations about grades.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ryan Higa's a good model for thinking problems through carefully to find solutions and preparing for several contingencies. He's honest about having had dark, violent, and suicidal thoughts at a low point in his life. He encourages others who're going through the same thing by showing how he managed to turn things around and see himself in a very different way. He admits to taking diet pills and diuretics to make his weight class for the wrestling team, talks about the extreme diet he put himself on, and warns that athletes have died and that it's not worth the risk.

Violence

Higa was being bullied in middle school and haunted by that experience well into high school. The bully tripped and shoved Higa and called him names like "chink" and "loser" on a daily basis, humiliating him in front of classmates. Mentions dark fantasies of punching the bully, poking his eye out with a ruler and seeing the blood gushing. At 11, Higa seriously contemplated suicide, analyzing pros and cons of different methods like sleeping pills, slitting his wrists, and jumping off a building. An illustration of a ghost run through with a sword; no blood or gore. Mentions being beaten up frequently in judo class.

Sex

Comic book illustration of Higa kissing a girl. Mentions childhood crush, asking her out, and eventually having a (different) girlfriend.

Language

"Crap," "piss," "bulls--t," "ass," "damn"; a person's name is changed to Dick as an insult. Other name-calling: "chink," "loser," and "gay faggot." Drawing of middle-finger gesture.

Consumerism

Popular YouTuber's expansion into another medium with several acknowledgements that some YouTubers have published books for money. Google, McDonald's Happy Meal (Higa jokingly invites McDonald's to sponsor him), Lunchables, Hot Pockets.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A high school clique drinks and smokes pot on the weekends. Mentions "druggies" at school. A drawing of adult Higa in an Old West saloon with beer.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ryan Higa's How to Write Good is part memoir, part graphic novel, and part how-to manual for aspiring authors. Higa is a popular YouTuber with millions of followers, so readers who find the book some other way may be interested in checking out his videos. Higa talks about how he was mercilessly bullied in middle school, how that experience led him to seriously contemplate suicide at the age of 11, and how he was able to solve the problem on his own. The bullying includes tripping, shoving, and the slurs "chink" and "gay faggot." Higa is a good role model for overcoming the trauma by carefully analyzing behavior and thinking things through to arrive at solutions to try. Readers really will learn a lot about good writing (mistakes like the one in the title are always corrected), including story structure, character development, narrative voice, and more. Strong language besides the slurs is rare but includes "crap," "bulls--t," and "ass." There's very mild sexual content with one illustration of a couple kissing and Higa's memories of his childhood crush.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

Teen, 13 years old Written byOopsyDaisy July 18, 2017

Great lessons

Gives everyone a realistic insight into bullying, racism and pressure. I love how it teaches kids how to actually deal with bullying because realistically telli... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old March 5, 2018

The best YouTube memoir out there.

Parents need to know that Ryan Higa is a famous, popular YouTuber. In his YouTube memoir, he talks all about his growing up and how it was difficult for this sm... Continue reading

What's the story?

RYAN HIGA'S HOW TO WRITE GOOD came about after one of the popular YouTuber's videos about his past (called "Draw My Life") generated a lot of responses from viewers and fans who had been through, or were going through, the same things Higa had been through, such as being bullied in middle school. Through graphic novel interactions with his ghostwriter, who takes him through the writing process, Higa supplies more detail about his childhood, including contemplating suicide at the age of 11. Within the framework of learning how to structure a book from the ghostwriter, Higa jumps back and forth between recounting the past and looking at it now and the valuable lessons and insights he learned along the way.

Is it any good?

Popular YouTuber Ryan Higa's memoir/graphic novel/how-to-write book is an honest, funny, and sometimes moving look at how Higa overcame his bully and the trauma that lingered for years afterward. Ryan Higa's How to Write Good may inspire tweens and up in similar situations. They'll easily relate to a lot of Higa's experiences, not only of being the target of a bully but also of sometimes feeling like a loser, and they'll be comforted a little, at least knowing they're not alone.

Higa acknowledges right off the bat that he's not the most logical candidate to write a book. But he provides a clever framework for integrating conversations and lessons in writing from his ghostwriter by depicting those parts in graphic novel style, with illustrated comic panels showing him and the ghostwriter in fantasy settings. With humor, grace, and a seemingly genuine desire to help others by telling his story, Higa's book is sure to be enjoyed by his many fans. And there's plenty to enjoy and learn for those who aren't tuned in to YouTube.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ghostwriter in Ryan Higa's How to Write Good. Do you think Higa should have acknowledged the ghost writer? Why, or why not? How many other celebrity books do you think have ghostwriters?

  • What do you think of his parents' and the school's response when Higa is finally told about being bullied? What more could they have done? Have you ever seen someone being bullied? Did you feel like there was something you could or should have done?

  • Have you ever thought about suicide, or do you know someone who has? What did you do? Where can you go for help if you or the person you know can't think of a solution to the problem like Higa did?

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