A quick perusal of the table of contents in Sophia Benoit's debut essay collection, Well, This Is Exhausting, provides a sense of what's to come: "Section One, in which I try really hard to be a good kid for my parents, miss out on a normal youth because I was fat, and then date someone who sucks"; "Section Two, in which I try really hard to impress shitty men, discover Skinnygirl pina colada mix, and learn how to do eye makeup"; and "Section Three, in which I get very tired of trying so hard, realize I was wrong about almost everything, and save my boyfriend's life."
These headers provide a loose chronological framework for Benoit's 30 essays, which are as hilarious and biting as their subtitles suggest. Benoit chronicles her early childhood spent as a well-behaved people-pleaser, the many lengths to which she has gone to impress men not worth impressing, and then inches closer to the present day, in which she lives in Los Angeles with her long-time boyfriend and has mostly stopped tying herself in knots to please other people. It's a classic millennial tale, but in Benoit's hands, this story of coming into one's full and honest self feels fresh and new. Perhaps it's her ability to balance self-deprecating humor with a white-hot rage against the cis-het white patriarchy, or to combine razor-sharp jabs at terrible ex-boyfriends with smart and reflective thoughts about what it feels like to live in a woman's body in the 21st century. Whatever the secret may be, Well, This Is Exhausting is exhilarating to read. (And the footnotes are not to be missed--they are somehow even funnier.) --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm