A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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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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