BkRev #1753. The Next Next Level: A Story of Rap, Friendship, and Almost Giving Up. (2015). Neyfakh, Leon. Brooklyn: Melville House Publishing, 170 pp. $16.95. ISBN: 978-1-61219-446-2, https://www.mhpbooks.com/books/the-next-next-level/
Julie Gimenez Terlaje
The Advising Center for the Colleges of Arts & Humanities and Languages, Linguistics, & Literature
University of Hawai‛i at Mānoa
The Next Next Level: A Story of Rap, Friendship, and Almost Giving Up is predominantly a memoir of author/journalist Leon Neyfakh’s reunion with Juiceboxx, an acquaintance from his teenage years who is now a struggling rap-rock musician in his late twenties. Like Juiceboxx, Neyfakh dreamed of a career as a musician but unlike Juiceboxx, Neyfakh deviated from music and pursued a practical career path instead. Neyfakh chronicles his personal experiences with Juiceboxx from when they met as teenagers; to Neyfakh’s admiration of Juiceboxx as a peer and longtime fan; and to present day as Neyfakh interviews and observes Juiceboxx over a period of time to write a magazine article about Juiceboxx’s life and career. In awe of Juiceboxx, Neyfakh bravely shares his feelings and reflections about Juiceboxx’s life as well as his own. While Neyfakh’s book is not about advising, his story is permeated with elements that are assuredly parallel with advising issues.
The prominent advising parallel in this book is the evolving friendship between Neyfakh and Juiceboxx and its similarities to an evolving relationship between an advisor and student. Aside from a passion for music and some common friends from youth, Neyfakh and Juiceboxx lead very different adult lives. Neyfakh is a prospering journalist with a stable job whereas Juiceboxx is a struggling musician with somewhat regular gigs and financial instability. Although they are opposites, Neyfakh’s actions throughout the chapters reveal a distinctly strong desire to forge an everlasting friendship with Juiceboxx and a genuine concern for Juiceboxx’s success and well-being.
In the world of advising, aside from pursuing a college degree, advisors often have contrasting worldviews from their students. They may come from different backgrounds, generations, and cultures. While advisors do not necessarily strive to be friends with students in the same way Neyfakh strives to be friends with Juiceboxx, advisors make concerted efforts to connect with students to enhance teaching and encourage persistence. Just as Neyfakh is concerned with Juiceboxx’s success and well-being, advisors have these identical concerns for students during and even beyond their college years.
Although the Neyfakh-Juiceboxx friendship and advisor-student relationship have similarities, a significant difference lies in how these relationships are built. In building their friendship, Neyfakh obsessively analyzes his perceptions of Juiceboxx. This causes Neyfakh to carefully plan out his interactions with and behavior around Juiceboxx, desperately attempting to favorably impress him and stay amenable to his every need. In one instance, Neyfekah feared upsetting Juiceboxx if posing a difficult interview question for his article. Neyfekah’s display of incessant self-monitoring in order to be liked by Juiceboxx presents a useful lesson for advisors: do not follow Neyfakh’s example when trying to establish relationships with students. Excessively calculating interactions can prevent advisors from being truly present in advising sessions and hinder organic development of an effective advisor-advisee relationship. Importantly, advisors are obliged to challenge students as appropriate when circumstances arise.
While I featured the Neyfakh-Juiceboxx friendship, advising parallels of pursuing passion and fulfillment; understanding others different from yourself; the challenges of identity and career uncertainty; and resiliency after failure are illustrated remarkably well. As a memoir, I recommend this book as a leisure read and only to advisors who are interested in seeing how advising themes can play out in a context radically different from a college setting.