Monday, 20 April 2015

'Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You' by Todd Hasak-Lowy - SPOILER FREE REVIEW

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Simon and Schuster UK Children's publishing, for accepting my request to view this book on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.

'Maybe everything would be better without all these horrible, endless lists.'

'Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You' is Darren's story: he's a fifteen year old boy with a pretty average life, his parents are divorced, his big brother Nate's off at uni and he can't really get any girls to notice him. However, this all changes after his father reveals that he's gay. Darren finds it pretty hard to deal with this information, so decides to skip out on visiting Nate with his dad and get the bus to his university by himself... But this plan changes when mystery girl Zoey Lovell decides to jump on the bus with him and go along for the ride. Sounds like any other ordinary contemporary, right? Pretty much. But this book is told entirely in lists.
In all honesty, the main selling point of this novel was also the main downfall. I thought the idea of a story told completely in lists was a unique and attractive concept, but it just didn't really translate well onto the page. This could have been because I was reading an ARC format, rather than the physical copy, in which I'm sure the spacing and organising of the lists would have been highly more effective, but I don't think that was it. At some points the lists read more like a stream of consciousness, with Darren jumping from one topic to the next with little to no obvious link between them, maybe it a real struggle to keep track of the story. I finally felt as though I was getting into a flow with the novel, just for it to then skip ahead five months, so I never relaxed while reading this book - there were too many unexpected elements messing up the flow for me. 
Nothing really seemed to happen with the plot - this could have been because it was told in lists, so all of the developments that could have been interesting and attention-grabbing were over-analysed and overdone. Personally, I think the plot was meant to be the character development: Darren, learning to deal with his father's sexuality, while dealing with his own burgeoning relationship at the same time. But the whole aim of having a plot based in character development is to have a character that your readers will care about so much that they have to keep reading because they need to know what happens to them in the end. 
Unfortunately, this is not one of those books. I don't feel a thing for any of the main characters. Darren is a stereotypical fat kid, mentioning and complaining about his weight while eating constantly, but there's nothing to contrast with that to make his character stand out. Yes, he can play the bass amazingly, but we can't hear him perform so we can't really appreciate it, especially when he references how easy the bass is multiple times. I just didn't really like him for many reasons. There was the fact that he has a near love triangle going on at one point was something that made me feel uncomfortable, because it just wasn't necessary to the plot line at all, it was just another way to cause controversy and to get people talking about the book. Oh, and the fact that he seems super freaked out by his father coming out at the start of the novel, to the point where he starts talking in an offensive way and then completely brushes it off, ('There's nothing wrong with being gay, but there is at the same time even though Darren's pretty sure he doesn't think there's anything wrong with it himself' implied to me that, at least subconsciously, Darren definitely does have a problem with it, or why would he be openly discussing the fact that there was something wrong with it?) which definitely aggravated me. 
As well as Darren really annoying me, his brother did exactly the same thing. Nate is a lazy, good for nothing douchebag. He's derogatory about women, about the disabled and about homosexuals, he treats his parents like shit on the bottom of his shoe, yet he never gets reprimanded for his behaviour. Even though Darren is only fifteen, Nate uses peer pressure to force him to get high, and constantly forces beers on him. Don't get me wrong, I was drinking at fifteen and I'm not completely against sex or substance abuse in YA novels, but when the character isn't even sixteen yet it seems a little bit inappropriate. I was convinced that Darren was eighteen or nineteen, due to his behaviour and the encouragement he received from his brother, and it kind of disgusted me to find out that he was being promiscuous, smoking and drinking at such a young age. I know that readers have their own minds and won't necessarily be influenced by the things that they read, but this book just feels like it's aimed at younger people than should be reading about this (meaning that I thought all of their reactions were quite childish, and I definitely think this should be read by a slightly younger age bracket, because otherwise it will just grate on your nerves). 
The only character with any promise or substance is Zoey Lovell, the girl who decides to accompany Darren on the trip to see his brother, but she wasn't in the novel for very long - and when she is included, the scenes revolving around her and offering her back story are extremely vague and unemotional - so even she wasn't that brilliant. 
This book is a quick read, because the lists do go really fast, even if Darren does ramble on and on for pages at a time about some of the topics. It's an interesting format, but I really do think for it to work the lists need to be more snappy, concise and on topic, because it really did feel as though over half of this novel was completely unnecessary and was a waste of time. Apparently it's being recommended to fans of John Green, which I can kind of understand because Zoey is rather similar Alaska and Margot (from 'Looking For Alaska' and 'Paper Towns' respectively), but I think it's more appropriate for people who enjoyed Stephen Chbosky's 'The Perks of Being A Wallflower', except instead of Charlie writing letters and babbling his emotions, we have Darren writing lists and babbling his emotions. If you're looking for a great coming-of-age contemporary novel, there are lots to choose from, and I definitely recommend you search around for a bit before deciding that this is the one for you. 

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