My daughter bought the book Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You by Todd Hasak-Lowy on holiday earlier in the year. She lent it to me after I read the synopsis and was intrigued by the way that the book is written as a series of lists.
I have come to think about lists with great fondness since reading Shaun Usher’s marvellous Lists of Note.
I’m always intrigued by books that play with form. I love diaries and epistolary novels and I could see how writing lists could have a quirky charm in what is essentially a teenage angst, coming of age novel.
Darren is a young man who is wrestling with many things in his life that seem fairly insurmountable. His parents have divorced and his dad has just announced that he is gay. Darren’s older brother is away at college and Darren, who slightly hero worships him, misses him more than ever after the revelation from his father.
Darren also worries about being overweight, and gawky, and playing bass in the jazz band at school.
Most of all Darren worries about whether he will ever find a girl. He has several girls in mind, but none of them seem to notice him. This is a problem. Then several seem to notice him and this is a problem.
Darren decides to visit his brother in college. He is supposed to be going with his dad, but he decides to go alone on the bus. Matters are complicated when a girl who he likes suddenly decides that she will go with him. Things get strange and very emotional, extremely quickly.
The lists, I think, are the best and worst things about this book. Sometimes they work brilliantly and really give a lift to the narrative, giving it depth, or poignancy, or humour which take what is a fairly ordinary novel and making it better. The times when the lists don’t work are the worst. At these times they seem like filler, and act as distractions that break up the emotional intensity of the story, which is a shame, because a story like this needs to pull you in and keep you hooked. You need to buy into Darren as a character, and really be sucked into his world, and because of the lists you don’t. Sometimes it keeps you at arms length from him and that’s really frustrating.
I enjoyed it for the most part, but I found the female characters a little difficult to buy into if I’m honest. The men were drawn really well. The women less so.
I would recommend it to teens, probably girls. I know it has a boy protagonist but I can’t imagine a boy reading this, at least not any I know. It has mentions of sex and drugs and some swearing, and is therefore unsuitable for pre-teens. Although this is probably exactly why I’d have read it as a pre-teen, if such books had been available way back then!