Phoebe's Diary

Image of Phoebe's Diary
Release Date: 
September 5, 2023
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Reviewed by: 

"Emotionally raw and ruthlessly honest . . ."

Emotionally raw and ruthlessly honest, Phoebe Wahl mines her own high school diaries for "an almost true teenage journal." In the style of the old Amelia's Notebook series, Wahl features drawings with labels to introduce her characters.

"A little bit about me

frizzy, curly brown hair

small mouth but large gum-to-tooth ratio

chubby (a guy downtown last year yelled I had 'childbearing hips'"

Beyond physical descriptions, she lists favorite things. The top of that list is to get a boyfriend and the bulk of the story follows Phoebe and her attractions to different boys.

"Sometimes I want someone, ANYONE, so badly that I want to run and shout. Someone that I know would love me, someone who could fill that empty half of my bed. I know it seems silly, and like a high school cliche, but it feels so real."

Naturally, Phoebe is insecure about practically everything in her life, even her ability to follow through on keeping a diary. Her interactions with boys are equally fraught.

"What if I said all the wrong things? Or I talked too much? Or not enough? Or I talked the right amount but about ridiculous things?"

But the school play she's worried about turns out fine, the boys she has crushes on like her back. For all her angst, things turn out not at all as horribly as she fears. The diary ends up feeling very much like a true teenage journal. There's worry about not measuring up physically, artistically, as a girlfriend. But at the same time, Phoebe has a sense of herself, her own style, that carries her through all her imagined travails. Even as she flounders, she can see herself critically and understand what she's doing.

"In 20 years, I'll look back and laugh over this journal, filled with the ranting and raving about the awkwardness of high school. But although I can see past all of this, I still find it hard to believe this isn't important or at all relevant to my life in the future."

Wahl's readers will see exactly how important it all is. They'll recognize much of themselves in Phoebe and maybe feel inspired to start their own journals.