All valid questions.
Sit down big sis and let me teach you a little somethin’. Let me drop some wisdom on ya. Let me – hey, where are you going? Get back here!
Ok, fine. Just shut up for a minute and let me tell you about this thing.
Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definite How-To Guide is the joint memoir from Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark. They have this rad podcast, the aforementioned My Favorite Murder – you know the one I keep sending you and you just text back “cool.”? It’s a true crime podcast, but more than that it’s a community of rad women like us (ok mostly you) and a few dudes who don’t suck. We trade horror stories and sometimes cross stitch patterns.
My Favorite Murder has literally 30 million downloads a month so there is no way to overstate its popularity or that of its hosts. MFM lead to *Karen and Georgia creating the Exactly Right Podcast Network and this memoir.
Now that I’ve sparknotes-ed you the background, here’s why you, my dear sister Riley (you’re such a Karen) and all other big sisters who ignore their little sister’s recommendations, should read this book.
Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered Gif Memories (You’ll laugh and cry a lot during this book)
Infallible is not a word I’d associate with these women. They are self-proclaimed imperfect people. Which, duh. Of course. Nobody’s perfect. And yet, with this inscrutable fact, many of us hesitate to expose ourselves.
Karen and Georgia’s willingness to share insecurities and questionable decisions with humility and wit is a critical component to their success. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murder stays true to that. The kind of vulnerability displayed in SSDGM is some next-level Brené Brown shit.
Their stories aren’t always flattering, but they’re raw and funny as hell.
Here are my top two:
For it’s self-deprecating honesty and laugh-so-hard you cry jokes, one of my favorite essays in the memoir is “Karen’s Plan for When the Party’s Finally Over.” Karen gives very personal advice regarding not becoming an alcoholic. (“Step 1: Don’t get so drunk you make people carry your deadweight everywhere.”)
The most relatable narrative hit me in “Georgia Gets Her Nipple Pierced for All the Right Reasons.” (No Mother, I have not pierced my nips).
“If I could prove I knew that I was ugly by acting the part, then no one else would feel the need to tease me about it anymore.”
I watched a child’s mental health declining over the pages of this essay and, even knowing that Georgia ends up fine, I held my breath through the entirety. I wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, but I recognized my childhood quirks and anxiety in Little Georgia. I needed her to make it out ok.
“You Deserve to Be Happy No Matter What Your Brain Tells You.” (Mental health and advice that doesn’t suck)
Any memoir or self-help book that boasts of life-changing lessons immediately gets re-shelved. That’s my rule. If you claim that you can fix my life with juicing or 20 minutes of meditation a day then you’re going on the shelf too.
SSDGM doesn’t read like a typical advice book but it’s crammed full of cautionary tales and guidance.
“If you love drinking because it feels like slowly slipping into a big, fun hot tub full of your funnest friends, you’re right. It definitely feels that way. To you.”
Karen doesn’t pull punches. Yet, the level of vulnerability she displays changes the tone for me. This isn’t someone telling me to go on a juice cleanse and visit Tibet to find a meaning outside of booze. It’s a Professional Alcoholic calling me out. It’s someone who has seen some shit and is done lying to herself.
Self-care can easily turn into a capitalistic form of procrastination and I appreciate SSDGM not giving into that. It’s a good balance between being kind to yourself and getting your shit together.
You have to do the work.
Whether you’re trying to further your career or find self-love, you have got to put in the hard work. It will pay off. Even for us nihilistic millennials.
On the softer side of advice, the memoir’s first essay, “Georgia’s Take on Red Flags and Riot Grrrl Courage,” brings up equal parts empathy and exposed nerves. Georgia expands on a story she briefly told in the podcast. She was young and thought of herself as immune to bullshit. Then Georgia found herself in a situation with a much older man and his camera, isolated in the mountains. What happens left her feeling vulnerable and ashamed. It’s a situation I would never blame her for – or any other woman for – but I would blame myself.
Those moments in the memoir are important. I, and hopefully you, can catch the double standard we often have for ourselves. Scrolling through the My Favorite Murder subreddit, I found echos of relief and gratitude.
Beyond the murder and jokes, the core of Karen and Georgia’s brand is mental health (and cussing) but these two underline that they are not professionals. That’s why their stories hit close to home. Statistics have their place, but sometimes you just need to know that you’re not alone.
The World of Literature (Or, an answer to the question ‘Sometimes people get famous and then write books and those books suck. Is this one of those books?’)
If you’re familiar with Karen’s career, then her writing chops shouldn’t come as a surprise. A comedian and television writer, her style is clean and punchy. If there’s something wrong with the book, you’re not going to find it here. The woman knows what she’s doing. For a first time author, she likely more experienced than most newcomers to the memoir gig.
When I said “you’re not going to find it here”’ that may have implied that Georgia is the weaker of the two. On the contrary. Their styles naturally diverge, but Georgia isn’t second best. In fact she absolutely shines. For someone who has spent her life berating her own intelligence, Ms. Georgia slings subtle jokes and absolute charm – skills only indicative of a truly gifted writer.
Her descriptions of childhood events are some of my favorite moments in SSDG. Near the end of the book, Georgia writes about her wariness of camping trips and the forest. She mentions sitting around a campfire, how “the animals and serial killers tucking in for the night” – and it’s these little sparks of humor that really balance out the Karen’s shitting-in-the-hot-tub jokes.
They have two different forms of comedic writing that coalesce magnificently.
“You Can Go Ahead and Get the Fuck Out” (Who is this book for?)
Even if this is your first introduction to Karen and Georgia, I don’t think the intimacy is lost. While Karen and Georgia hearken back to the podcast, it’s more so bonus content than main campaign. (Sorry, I’ve been gaming a lot lately). That being said there are definitely people this book is not for.
1. If you’re looking for more murder content like the podcast this isn’t it. It’s a memoir. Delete your stupid Reddit post about how there wasn’t enough gore and “did anyone else think…” and learn the difference between critiquing within a genre and disliking something because it’s not how you would have done it.
2. You don’t like cussing.
3. You don’t like women.
4. You are okay with both 2 and 3 separately but you cannot handle them together.
5. “Also, if you’ve always been popular, attractive and sought after, none of this will make sense to you. You are a unicorn. Go lock yourself in a castle on a high hill. Related to that, if you’re one of those women who says that you only had guys friends because you’re so pretty all women are jealous of you, put this book down and go to therapy immediately.” (“Karen’s Lecture on Self-Love”)
“Buy Your Own Shit” (overall feelings)
My biggest critique: For claiming to not like Harry Potter as these women have, there suuuure are a shit-ton of Harry Potter references. Georgia is a Ravenclaw. Karen is a Gryffindor. Fight me.
As for format, you can get SSDGM as a Kindle book, regular ol’ novel or as an audiobook. If you’re used to the podcast then I highly recommend the audiobook. Actually, even if you’re not, go with the audiobook. It’s read beautifully.
To demonstrate, here’s my creepy text convo with someone who’s never listened to the podcast but tried the audiobook out:
In all seriousness, this has been one of the hardest articles I’ve had to write (and I’ve written about Montana politics!). How am I supposed to sum up the impact that this book has had on me? I’ve stopped series I’m actively reading because the commitment feels like a relationship and that makes me antsy. Yet, these two have been speaking into my earholes since 2016. The pressure is too much. So. I’ll just leave it at this: There’s something powerful about admiring someone and then noticing that you share some of her faults. That realization is a step in figuring out how to be kind to yourself. And that’s pretty meaningful.
You can order your own copy of Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definite How-To Guide from any one of these locations:
*We’re so close (in my head) that I’m going to be un-journalist-y and refer to them by first name. (Also I’m dyslexic and I’m anxious about spelling their last names wrong).