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Review: The Aqua Net Diaries

July 9, 2010

Just before she started the fourth grade, Jennifer Niven McJunkin’s family moved from Maryland to Richmond, Indiana, a city of about 36,000 at the time.  Jennifer felt like she knew who she was when she lived in Maryland, but felt lost in Richmond, a city where everyone seemed to be obsessed with sports.  She felt completely unprepared when she went to the huge high school in Richmond and did everything she could to get out of there.  She said:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  And so it was inside the halls of RHS as we fought to find our place, whether it was in the cafeteria or in the classroom or on the playing field or on the dance floor.  We hoped to be noticed, all the while we prayed not to stick out.  At the same time we were trying to figure out who we were, we were trying to blend into the crowd.  We judged and were judged on what we wore and who we knew and where we came from and where we were going.  And sometimes we were judged on who we weren’t, which was worst of all.

When I found out that The Aqua Net Diaries by Jennifer Niven has been optioned to be a TV show, I was really excited to get the chance to read it.  I just love the cover with its shiny pink and blue hairspray can, but I’m sad to say that I found the book to be disappointing.  Jennifer tells her story with short vignettes about everything from driver’s ed class, to the prom to her extra-curricular activities.  She has saved notes from her past and reproduces many of them, along with pictures.

I found the writing to be fine, but the stories just weren’t all that interesting to me.  Sure some of them were amusing, but most of them were not.  I’m not sure if it’s because it’s been so long since I was in high school (35 years!  Yikes!) or because I was happy with my nerdy circle of friends and had no desire to be part of the cool crowd.  It seemed to me that Jennifer had a lot going for her – she was pretty, had plenty of friends, was active in extra-curricular activities, did well in school and had a lot of freedom – and for some reason it never seemed to be enough.  Maybe that was the point of the whole book, but she never came to realize that maybe things weren’t so bad after all.

The Aqua Net Diaries was a fast read, but for me, it was just okay.  I think the people who will enjoy this the most are those who suffered a lot of teenage angst and those who went to high school with the author.

Review copy provided by Amazon Vine.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.

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36 Comments leave one →
  1. July 9, 2010 5:07 am

    no, pretty sure I did not go to High school with her…and I try to stay away from pink covers…

  2. July 9, 2010 6:22 am

    May be the tv show will turn out better than the book. The cover is cute. I like the title too.

  3. July 9, 2010 7:12 am

    It is a shame that the stories are not that interesting b/c I like the premise (and the cover). As always thanks for an honest review!

    BTW what time period was the memoir from (70’s, 80’s, 90’s)?

    • darlene permalink
      November 17, 2011 7:56 am

      It was from the 80’s. The time period was detailed and fun – the stories were ehh… She sounds like she was mean, spoiled and was more worried about being “in” than being nice.

  4. July 9, 2010 7:49 am

    Well, I can imagine the high school, because I went to HS in Indiana, and here if you don’t worship basketball, you are OUT! And yes, I did use AquaNet hairspray until my hair was hard. I don’t know if I would rush out to read this, as I can only do so much of this genre, but I think if I did I might relate.

  5. July 9, 2010 8:06 am

    I probably wouldn’t read it just by looking at the cover. I’m such a cover snob.

  6. July 9, 2010 9:20 am

    Hadn’t heard of this one. Enjoyed your review.

    Thoughts in Progress

  7. July 9, 2010 9:38 am

    I like the quote because it sounds just like when I went to high school in the 1950s (I know, long time ago). I hated my teen years, can only come to terms with teen angst at this long remove, so I don’t think I’ll be reading this. Sad, isn’t it? At 70 I still remember every hurt from high school.

  8. July 9, 2010 9:43 am

    I’m not crazy about books that depict teen life at school, probably because for most it is a time of teen angst, and there is so much more to life than what happens at school.

  9. July 9, 2010 10:12 am

    Wow, I haven’t seen Aqua Net in years. Too bad the book didn’t work out for you. I’m with you though on high school memory type books. I’ve never connected with characters who wanted so badly to be part of the popular crowd when they already had a group of good friends.

  10. July 9, 2010 10:33 am

    No teenage angst here, so thanks for the warning…I’m not feeling the need to read this one.

  11. July 9, 2010 10:58 am

    Sorry you didn’t really like this one Kathy. Short stories just aren’t for me. I like the title though!

  12. July 9, 2010 11:28 am

    I got excited when I saw the title and cover, but what a shame that it didn’t live up to expectations. I sometimes worry if I don’t like a YA book, because I am not its target audience, but I don’t believe that any more. There are so many great YA books out there – our standards are high, because the bar has been set high.

    Thanks for your honest review!

  13. July 9, 2010 11:37 am

    It doesn’t sound like this would be a book for me. I am not really all that into reading stories about teen angst and think that this book would probably bore me silly. Thanks for the honest and thoughtful review though!

  14. July 9, 2010 11:54 am

    Oh, so sorry this isn’t better! I remember AquaNet now, but never could have come up with the name! I even remember the smell, because my mother and sister and I used so much of it!

  15. July 9, 2010 12:19 pm

    OMG I want to read this book. I was just talking about Aqua Net and my famous 80’s hair the other day. Thanks for bringing this one to my attention Kathy!

  16. stacybuckeye permalink
    July 9, 2010 12:34 pm

    Ah, the days of Aqua Net. My grandmother used those bigs cans religiously. Too bad the book wasn’t great. I actually liked high school, but there was still angst just from gowing up.

  17. July 9, 2010 1:40 pm

    I remember Aqua Net but I swear the can was purple. Oh well, it’s been a long time. Sorry about the book. If the get good tv writers the show could become a hit and then the book will go on to become a best seller. There’s very little justice in this arena.

  18. July 9, 2010 2:10 pm

    Like you, I was happy with the “nerdy” group I was with in high school and college and also the one I am with in univ. I agree with what you said about whatever she was involved with were not bad either. I remember that for quite some time, I wanted to be with the “cool” gang, and was even part of one such for some time. While I was able to gel with them well, I realized that I was never getting that feel of “closeness” with them. And I also saw that I kept having to prove myself or keep chatting to still be considered cool. I didn’t like it for long. It was just a matter of wanting something that’s projected cool, although it took me some time to realize that I was happy with what I already had.

  19. July 9, 2010 3:21 pm

    I love your reviews…always nicely written and well thought out.

  20. July 9, 2010 3:52 pm

    I felt the same way with Not That Kind of Girl. Nothing would have made her happy. I do like the title, though. Did she grow up in the 80s? I could have used an entire can of Aqua Net on my bangs and they still would have fell down flat against my face. Talk about teenage angst. LOL!

  21. July 9, 2010 5:36 pm

    the cover is cute, sorry to hear the book dissapointed.
    Great review 🙂

  22. July 9, 2010 6:41 pm

    I pretty much enjoyed my high school time and didn’t really have a lot of angst…thanks for your gracious review!

  23. July 9, 2010 8:55 pm

    I think the cover is very cute, too! 😉 Aqua Net brings the 1980’s to mind, doesn’t it?

  24. July 9, 2010 10:58 pm

    I would not understand this book as we do not have a high school culture like yours there. So I am sure I dnt want to read one person’s views 🙂

  25. July 10, 2010 1:13 am

    Sorry it wasn’t as good as you hoped but I must say I’m in love the title.

  26. July 10, 2010 1:35 am

    Kathy, it sounds like this book fell short of your expectations. Thanks for your honest review.

  27. July 10, 2010 6:40 am

    Too bad this one didn’t live up to its promise for you. I’m not sure if it would be a good fit for me either. I’ll have to ask my niece if she’s read it, it might be a good one for her.

  28. July 10, 2010 7:59 pm

    Thanks for the honest review. I’m not sure this book would be for me, but I can see how some people will love it!

  29. July 12, 2010 12:31 am

    Oh man I love the title of this book so too bad it doesnt quite live up to it!

  30. July 12, 2010 8:30 am

    I really like the title of this one…I remember using aqua net in high school, but unfortunately, my hair is so thin that it only helped my hair stay up for about 2 hours, though I made sure not to be near any flames. LOL

    Not sure if this would be a great book for me either, but I may pick it up if I catch it at the library.

  31. July 13, 2010 4:59 pm

    This might have worked better as a fictionalized diary (more creative details, exaggeration)?

    We’ll stay tuned to see how the tv show is!

  32. Kathleen permalink
    July 14, 2010 4:49 pm

    This one probably doesn’t appeal to me either. But I have to say that title sure brought back some memories. I’m old enough to remember when Aqua Net was one of the few hairsprays you could buy!

  33. July 14, 2010 5:18 pm

    Books about the trials of high school are hit or miss for me (usually miss). My high school experience was definitely unique. It’s something I treasure in retrospect but would never necessarily want to revisit. And that’s the thing about high school, no one really fits in. Even the people who seem to have it all figured out don’t. High school is really the time for experimentation and difficult lessons. At least, as I look back now, only three years, that’s what I see.

  34. July 15, 2010 9:05 pm

    I think I’ll pass on this one. I don’t think the stories would grab my attention either.

  35. JOE KAISER permalink
    June 1, 2011 8:56 pm


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