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If you’re reading this, the chances are probably better than 50/50 that you’re having your very own Quarter-Life Crisis right now–that state of existential terror and indecision that occurs in your twenties, when you look around and go, “okay, now what?” Plenty of books have come out on the subject in the last few years, but Generation What? boasts that it’s the first that isn’t attempting to be a self-help guide, just a collection of personal stories by writers who have themselves gone through their Quarter-Life Crises and lived to tell about it. The book tries to be as hip as you’d expect it would, with subject titles like “Goodbye Soul, Hello Bacon” (which sounds like it’s about giving up on keeping kosher, but it isn’t), and the requisite tales of “here’s everything that happened to me between the ages of twenty-one and twenty-seven, in nine pages,” but the majority of the interesting stuff are the stories where the writers take one specific incident in their young lives to narrate, some event that they later realized typified their experience of totally losing their shit and then trying to get it together again in their attempts to impersonate an adult. A few of the best of these include Justin Maki’s “Salvation in Wordplay,” where he tells of his ambivalent attempts to find sexual awakening while teaching English in Japan; “Welcome to Afghanistan” by Matt Farwell, the story of how he found himself joining the US military and what a day in the infantry is like; “11.2.04” by Courtney E. Martin, an account of the eve of the 2004 American election, where she starts the night savouring “the moments before John Kerry’s sweet victory” and her subsequent disillusionment where she contemplates whether democracy itself is a failure because her guy didn’t win; “My Father’s Mid-Life Crisis” by the editor of the collection, Bess Vanrenen, where her Quarter-Life Crisis is mirrored or perhaps triggered by the revelation of her father’s infidelity; and “Darker Country” by Broken Pencil’s own Hal Niedzviecki, in which we learn about the panic attacks he suffered as the lone Canadian at a university in Scotland. If you’re in the midst of your own QLC you might be relieved to learn that you’re not alone; if you’ve already come out the other side, you’ll find much to reminisce about; and if you haven’t yet faced off against the spectre of burgeoning adulthood: welcome to hell, here’s what’s next. (Richard Rosenbaum)

Non-Fiction, 262 pgs, edited by Bess Vanrenen, $15.89, Speck Press, PO Box 102004, Denver, Colorado, 80250, USA, ,

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