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Jenna Tico
Cancer Moon
Jenna Tico, author

Adult; Memoir; (Market)

Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, way too close to the Hollywood dream machine, Jenna Tico’s self-worth wanes to invisibility when her identity becomes enmeshed with validation from celebrities and spiritual F-boys . . . until she claws her way back to empowerment. Here, Tico shares vulnerable personal essays, stories, and poetry—all grouped following the cycles of the moon—chronicling her journey from late bloomer to full grownup. Observing the world of twenty-something relationships from perspectives as diverse as a bachelorette houseboat, a music festival afterparty, and the airplane ride to a death bed, she validates the experiences of women who feel like they have been abandoned by the generation that came before them. Her self-reflective stories encourage healthy life choices for young women without telling them where, what, or how to live their lives—and always with a healthy dash of humor on the side. Simultaneously hilarious and poignant (without the whiff of morality play), Cancer Moon invites readers to embrace their twenties—aka the “age of wallowing”—as a humorous and necessary step toward understanding how we become who we want to be in the world.
This unique cocktail of memoir, self-help, and essays offers a captivating and bitingly comic journey through a California coming-of-age, too close to Hollywood and too far, at times, from empowerment. Performer/artist/community-builder Tico's briskly told story, expressed through personal essays, stories, and poems, mirrors the moon's cycles, suggesting her transition from adolescence to adulthood. Tico fearlessly explores tumultuous relationships (“As a general rule, it takes equal parts energy to remove oneself from a relationship as it does to wiggle into it”), wild bachelorette weekends (powered by “a cardboard box of whatever store-brand alcohol the Bachelorette Overlords have decided will get us drunk in the van”), and other life passages, all without the guidance of the previous generation.

Her crack comic timing and eye for the killer detail never come at the expense of hard-won wisdom, and her reflections on her twenties exhibit maturity and grace while offering an inspiring call for young people to think independently. Tico deftly puts readers in her shoes in moments of turmoil and joy, facing the “Stages of Alone” and learning that “confusion, shock, and ambivalence are perfectly normal—nay, healthy—responses to pregnancy.” The awkwardness of finding your footing and power while navigating adult relationships and being part of a generation taught in health classes to “Fear the Sperm” feels relatable, poignant, and rousing.

Tico’s form is bold, as Cancer Moon mixes straight-ahead memoir with pages of intimate blank verse that dig deep into ideas and feelings, like the poem “Call Your Mother”’s contemplation of her, her mother’s, and her grandmother’s lineage: “we are granddaughters of a million versions of moon, / And sometimes they’re waxing poetic /’Bout everything they have done wrong.” That one finds Tico in powerful communion with her own unborn daughter. These raw verse passages may at first strike some readers as interruptions to the flow of the polished memoir, but Tico uses them to plunge deep into the emotions and themes that power the narrative, and her linework—playful, urgent, surprising, inviting—rewards leaping with her.

Takeaway: Rousing, bold, funny story of growing into one’s power.

Comparable Titles: Phoebe Rodgers’s Please Don’t Sit on My Bed in Your Outdoor Clothes, Jessi Klein’s You’ll Grow Out of It.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A