Emo is not merely a genre of music, featuring a male singer complaining about his inability to connect (with a girl, his peers, whatever). There’s a whole emo-frigging world out there, clarified and codified for the clueless in the funny, detailed Everybody Hurts. J.D. Salinger, Natalie Portman, and (elder statesman) Morrissey are among the culture’s icons, which shows their members are more well-rounded than anthropologists originally believed. The book also offers the comforting news that not having sex for a very long time, endlessly redoing your MySpace site, and living in your mom’s basement means you’re emo, too. Could it be that my lifestyle, once derided, has now ascended to the realm of chic?

Authors Leslie Simon and Trevor Kelley divide up the emo world into simple, easily understood sections. In “Ideology” you can find out if you’re Trustafarian emo (hippies) or Christian emo (their love for Switchfoot “is not at all ironic”), and be flattered to know your group has more rituals than the Yanomamo tribe. The “Fashion” section details every possible permutation of emo haircut (the Reverse Faux-Hawk, the Hasidic). The chapter on Internet etiquette shares the invaluable advice, “Don’t brag about your genitalia.”

As reassuring as the book is, there may be a tad too much info here for non-obsessives. So think of Everybody Hurts the way you do the Bible. Every so often, when you’re feeling emo-lost, pick it up and be reassured. That Sixteen Candles rules. That you’re not wrong to wonder if Jared Leto is emo for playing Jordan, “the swoon-worthy slacker,” on My So-Called Life-—or not, for dating Lindsay Lohan. If one mark of a good book is to make you
plumb your pop-cultural soul, then Everybody Hurts is important. Or maybe not-—I’m still confused. But, hey, I think that means I’m emo too.