I feel like it has been ages and ages since my last book review – because it has! I have been completely slacking on reading, because at the end of a long day, all I want to do is go to bed at 9 o’clock. I finally had to kick it into gear, though, because my book club’s June book was my pick: Yes Please by comedienne Amy Poehler.
Goodreads shares a brief synopsis:
In Amy Poehler’s highly anticipated first book, Yes Please, she offers up a big juicy stew of personal stories, funny bits on sex and love and friendship and parenthood and real life advice (some useful, some not so much), like when to be funny and when to be serious. Powered by Amy’s charming and hilarious, biting yet wise voice, Yes Please is a book is full of words to live by.
I’m disappointed to give Yes Please just two out of five stars.
I should preface my review with this: I don’t watch Parks and Rec. I don’t watch Saturday Night Live. I do, however, know that Amy Poehler is supposed to be very funny. If you’re the type who plays the Expectation Game, I should tell you from the get-go that Yes Please is not a funny book. It’s not really trying to be funny, or tongue-in-cheek. That doesn’t seem to be what Amy Poehler is trying to do.
If I had to hazard a guess at what Amy Poehler is trying to do in Yes Please, I would say that she’s trying to piece together a book that is like her: bits and pieces of memory and experience and interactions with people, and how they make her who she is. She tries to be amusing and honest and humble.
Unfortunately, I just don’t think she does this.
Yes Please is haphazard. More than anything else, it’s a collection of chapters that have little to do with one another other than they all involve Poehler. She drops a lot of names. She talks about what other people do. She talks about her hopes and dreams. She tries to be serious, be funny, be irreverent, but it comes off as a mess. She spends the entire first chapter writing about how hard it is to write a book. It’s a wreck.
During Book Club, my friends all made the same comment: it seems like Poehler became very famous, someone said “write a book,” and she did. Someone pointed out what I think is the greatest issue playing into all of this – Amy Poehler is funny. Really funny, in fact. But she’s funny as an improviser, not a writer of a long memoir. She’s talented in sketches that are televised, not in paper and text. That’s not the medium for her essence, and it’s a real shame, because this book was so highly-anticipated. Ultimately, I don’t dislike Poehler any less. I’d still love to see her shows (if I had cable). I would still follow her on Twitter. But I won’t pick up another book she pens.
Before ending on a negative note, I want to point out one idea Poehler pens that I really liked, and that stuck with me:
It’s called Yes Please because it is the constant struggle and often the right answer. Can we figure out what we want, ask for it, and stop talking? Yes please. Is being vulnerable a power position? Yes please. Am I allowed to take up space? Yes please. Would you like to be left alone? Yes please. I love saying “yes” and I love saying “please.” Saying “yes” doesn’t mean I don’t know how to say no, and saying “please” doesn’t mean I am waiting for permission. “Yes please” sounds powerful and concise. It’s a response and a request. It is not about being a good girl; it is about being a real woman. It’s also a title I can tell my kids. I like when they say “Yes please” because most people are rude and nice manners are the secret keys to the universe.
*Emphasis is mine
If Yes Please has a silver lining, this is it. If this is Amy Poehler’s essence, then I wish I could read more of it, and I wish she could wrap that poetry in words.