A heartfelt, humorous story of a teen boy’s impulsive road trip after the shock of his lifetime—told entirely in lists!
Darren hasn’t had an easy year.
There was his parents’ divorce, which just so happened to come at the same time his older brother Nate left for college and his longtime best friend moved away. And of course there’s the whole not having a girlfriend thing.
Then one Thursday morning Darren’s dad shows up at his house at 6 a.m. with a glazed chocolate doughnut and a revelation that turns Darren’s world inside out. In full freakout mode, Darren, in a totally un-Darren move, ditches school to go visit Nate. Barely twenty-four hours at Nate’s school makes everything much better or much worse—Darren has no idea. It might somehow be both. All he knows for sure is that in addition to trying to figure out why none of his family members are who they used to be, he’s now obsessed with a strangely amazing girl who showed up out of nowhere but then totally disappeared.
Told entirely in lists, Todd Hasak-Lowy’s debut YA novel perfectly captures why having anything to do with anyone, including yourself, is:
3. ridiculously complicated
4. possibly, hopefully the right thing after all.
Warning. This is an extremely scathing review. Apologies.
The thing that initially attracted me to this book was the fact that it was told entirely in lists. The cover wasn’t very interesting. The title seemed like it was trying too hard to be appealing, but ended up being way too long. The story on the blurb was nothing fascinating. I had never heard of the author. It was very thick. But I read it anyway, because of the fact that it was written in lists. And then I got to page 356, and I suddenly realised that I had completely wasted 2 hours of my life reading 365 pages that could have been summarised in 60. And so I stopped reading it.
The thing about the lists in this is that sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes, it adds flair, originality and creativity to the book, but sometimes it just feels a bit like a useless gimmick. I found that while I was reading it, the parts of the book where I was most drawn into the book were the parts where the reader was taken into a section of of a list, and it was written simply as a conventional story. The parts where the lists were something like:
“12 Members of the North High Jazz Ensemble
1. Daniel Waxman, drums
2. Edie Ross, piano
3. Darren Jacobs, bass
4. Chris McMaster, trombone
5. Timothy Marx, trombone
6. Maggie Block, trumpet
7. Kurt Phillips, trumpet
8. Asher Lipshitz, alto sax
9. Kelly Meyer, alto sax
10. Noam Levitsky, tenor sax
11. Ariel Berger, tenor sax
12. Bella McMutely, baritone sax”
were simply boring and were tedious to read. I mean, did you read every single person there? Did you go through each name and instrument and actually absorb them? Coz to tell you the truth, only Darren (No. 3) and Maggie (No. 6) are mentioned in the book. So that’s 10 lines of useless text. Taking up a page. Here’s another:
7 Days Since Saturday, April 26, That Darren Hasn’t Thought about Zoey within the First Four Minutes of Waking Up, Not That He Understands What Was So Special about Those Days, When He Was Definitely Thinking About Her Before Breakfast Was Over Anyway
1. Thursday, May 22
2. Tuesday, June 17
3. Thursday, July 3
4. Monday, July 21
5. Sunday, July 27
6. Friday, August 8
7. Monday, August 25
You can see that these get very annoying.
However, the lists could have been executed extremely well. I think that because Hasak-Lowy is a debut writer, he tried a little too hard to make his first book outstanding and unique, but fell short of the mark. He was a little too dedicated to the “lists” concept, and often, there were lists that added no effect to the story at all. For example:
6 Minutes That Pass After Kyle’s Arrival Until a Bong Is Taken Out
These lists seem a little too “space-filling” and do not seem to add anything to the story apart from more pages, hence, why the book is more than 600 pages long. When it could be about 250.
Debut writers tend to disregard the “plot” aspect of writing, and instead, focus on more “character-driven” kind of novels. They believe that their character’s vibrant and unique personality will see the novel through to the end. But often, such is the case here, the characters are shallow and generic, and the novel flounders in its own words (and lists), not really going anywhere. Sorry if this is a little harsh, but to tell you the truth, I don’t really understand how this book was published. Usually, any other book written with little plot, generic characters and non-developing characters would be rejected within the first chapter. Writing plot-driven novels, or well-written character-driven novels comes with experience, which is why debut writers usually miss it.
The first 356 pages can be summarised like this (missing one or two dot point to avoid spoilers):
- His parents divorce.
- He finds a girl.
- He loses a girl.
- He finds another girl.
- He loses that other girl.
That’s about 300 lists in only 1. The novel doesn’t really go anywhere, leaving the reader quickly bored and disinterested (which is exactly why I wasn’t able to finish it).
I found the characters a little boring, rude and completely normal. Darren was a typical teenage guy, and he was rude to his father, even when he (the father) put his dignity on the line and confessed his biggest secret. Sorry, but I didn’t like Darren.
Also, writing in third person does wonders for keeping me from getting attached to the characters. Third person means you’re watching from a distance. Third person means you’re not part of the story. Third person means you’re the viewer watching the wannabe-singer relate their sob-story on reality TV. It just doesn’t work in a book like this. Of course, there are many books written in third person that makes the reader completely fall in love with the characters, but I just think that this book would have been better off in first person instead.
All in all, I don’t really think I can review this book properly having not read it completely, but I still think that I can inform my fellow bloggers what the first 365 pages are like. If I could only describe Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You in one word, it would be “boring”. Sorry.
Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You is out now. Buy at your local bookstore.
- Title: Me Being Me is Exactly As Insane as You Being You
- Author: Todd Hasak-Lowy
- Hardcover: 656 pages
- Publisher: Simon Pulse; First Edition edition (March 24, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1442495731
- URL: Amazon, Goodreads, Simon & Schuster