Monday, 4 May 2015

Me Being Me is Exactly as Insane as You Being You, Todd Hasak-Lowy

Pages: 656
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 23rd April 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Darren hasn’t had an easy year. His parents divorced, his brother left for college, and his best friend moved state. Also, he still doesn’t have a girlfriend. Then his dad shows up at 6am with a glazed chocolate donut and a pretty world-shaking revelation.

In full freak-out mode, Darren ditches school and jumps on a bus to visit his brother, Nate, at college. But someone weird/amazing comes along for the ride.

Told entirely in lists, this hilarious novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone is: 1. Painful 2. Unavoidable 3. Ridiculously complicated 4. Possibly, hopefully, the right thing after all.

This debut had so much promise: told entirely in lists, a world-rocking secret and a fab book trailer, but I really didn’t get on with Me Being Me.

A novel told entirely in lists is a form that has so much potential, both to go very right and very wrong, and it didn’t fall on either side for this novel. It just felt a little unnecessary to me. The lists were lists, but only technically; they were almost pieces of flash fiction in the novel – they were a narrative itself. For the epic length of the book I was expecting short, sharp, poignant lists and not the wordiness that I got. I kind of felt that if that amount of prose was what the author wanted then why didn’t he just stick with the traditional form? The only time those shorter, more concise lists came up was when there seemed to be stalling in some way. There were lots of lists that really gave nothing to the plot and didn’t develop the characters of their relationships at all, for me.

The lists that comprise this novel tell us all about Darren and the fall out of a 6am visit from his dad. I’m going to talk about that revelation now so if you don’t want to know, skip this paragraph! There are spoilers ahead. Darren’s parents are recently divorced and on this early morning visit, the reason becomes clear: Darren’s dad is gay. I have to admit that I really didn’t like how this was dealt with. Though it was likely unintentional, I felt like Darren’s reaction was borderline homophobic. He claimed to be fine with it and yet he called his dad a freak several times and was constantly worried about people thinking he might be gay too – what would people think of him now? Obviously, this isn’t an easy revelation to deal with, but I just don’t think it was approached in quite the right way.

I also had a few issues with Darren’s approach to girls. Darren spends the entire novel mooning over Zoey, a manic pixie dream girl if there ever was one. We hardly get an idea of what she’s actually like, just Darren’s feelings about how she would be even prettier with ‘normal’ hair and without her piercings. He also judged a lot of other girls in his class and at camp by how they looked – wishing they would alter themselves in some way to make them more appealing to him, even if he admired their talent or intelligence or enjoyed interacting with them. It really set me on edge, and though I finished Me Being Me, it was a struggle.

Me Being Me wasn’t for me but I have no doubt that lots of other people will fall head over heels for Darren’s humour and haplessness and the unusual format of the novel.

Thanks to S&S and NetGalley for the review copy.


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