I found this quirky softcover at a local Savers thrift shop. It's a first-person account of the ups, downs, and sideways-es in the life of 15-year-old Jonathan, who intersperses his "secret guide" and maps authors - some noted, some more obscure - to events in his own life. (I enjoyed looking up these folks, including poet/politician Melvin Tolson and journalist Agnes Smedley.)
I admit I didn't always like Jonathan; he's got a frenetic style that exhausted me, and he has an all-too-typical teen's tendency to focus on what catches his interest right now, at the expense of more important things. (The whole storyline about his possibly-pregnant girlfriend vs. his fascination with the exotic daughter of his ailing godfather's housekeeper was annoying to me, though it also read true to my own memories of adolescent crushes and the way they overwhelm every other thought.)
He admits to bad judgement in that and in other things - there's an incident involving two of his close friends that he refuses to disclose until halfway through the book, and in general he's awfully scatterbrained - but he manages to do some good in between messing up. And his devotion to his godfather is a nice note.
There are lots of pop-culture quips, and plenty of snarky bits as well. Among them, early on: "If any reader still thinks this is going to be a coming of age story, I'd like to say right away: pluck your head from your ass! Surely it's clear by now that nobody comes of age anymore..."
By the end of the story, despite the not-coming-of-age bit, Jonathan has learned a lot of things about himself and others - some good, some dark, some tragic - and, I think, has made some progress, even if that wasn't his point in writing.
I enjoyed the author Q&A at the end, in which he describes Aubrey's "Brief Lives" as one inspiration for this book.