Before you break up with me, let me be clear: I like Amy Poehler. I just wasn’t thrilled with her book. Worse, if I’m totally honest – and this pains me – I found that I liked her a little less after reading it. Sorry. I really am. It’s not you; it’s me.
I’ve done two book reviews here, and lest you think I’m a book snob, I am not. I’m in the middle of, and very much digging, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians. I devoured Hunger Games. I’ve also enjoyed previous memoirs by funny women: Tina Fey’s Bossypants and Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). Poehler’s Yes Please was not up to par with Fey’s or Kaling’s offerings.
Poehler didn’t want to write the book. I’m not speculating – she has an entire preface dedicated to how difficult it was for her to write a book. She mentions it throughout the book. At one point I thought it might be a running gag (I guess it still could be), but it’s evident in her tone and the sheer laziness of her writing. Yes, laziness. Disjointed thoughts, huge empty blank spaces, gimicky things like pages filled with one sentence life advice platitudes. There are self-empowerment section titles that came across as corny afterhoughts: “Say Whatever you Want,” “Do Whatever you Like,” “Be Whoever You Are.” At one point, she has Seth Meyers write a chapter, which is interesting on the one hand to get his perspective; on the other, write your own damn book. There is no cohesive thread, and the chapters read not even like essays, but more like blog posts or a BuzzFeed list (see chapter on her Parks and Rec castmates.)
She also divulges little about her life that couldn’t be discovered from an in-depth Rolling Stone interview. This is where I found the biggest difference between Poehler’s and Kaling’s and Fey’s books. The latter two writers revealed some vulnerability, and I could connect with them on some “Celebrities, they’re just like us!” level. Now it’s not Amy’s fault that she was born to the head cheerleader and captain of the football team, or that she’s always been a cute, petite, blonde, popular, and had boyfriends, but the one thing – the ONE thing – that could have exposed any struggle, she didn’t want to talk about. She simply refused to talk about her divorce. Now, I get not wanting to go into any messy divorce details, but she didn’t even go into her courtship with Will Arnett, her husband of ten years and the father of her two children; meanwhile, ex-boyfriend Matt Besser is featured quite a bit. There are certainly ways of discussing the heartache of your marriage dissolving without giving a blow-by-blow account. Was it a surprise? Were you in therapy? Something other than fake book titles for the divorce book you would write. Amy held us at arm’s length, for sure.
Amy Poehler is funny, at times this book was funny, but ultimately, it was relatively shallow, and left me feeling like she thought she was doing me a favor for writing it. No thanks. If you weren’t that into it, and you weren’t going to tell me something real, then don’t write a G-D memoir.