Tag Archives: coming-of-age

‘Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You’ – Or Is It?

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

mePlot: 8/20                                       

The story centers on Darren and his life; his parents’ divorce, his distanced relationship with his best friend and his brother moving away to Ann Arbor to study. My issue with this kind of story is that there aren’t enough plot points and obstacles to keep the reader reading. For such a long story, there isn’t anything compelling the reader to continue on past the first 100 pages. It becomes a battle to finish it rather than a pleasure. The story is an average, basic one.

Narration: 12/20

The narrative framework is something else though – a novel told in lists. The concept drew me in and once you get about ten or so pages into the story, you can lose yourself for a hundred pages or so. Many of the lists are tangential and while this gives the story an interesting quality, it also detracts from plot and character. It reads as more of an attempt to play with literary devices than an opportunity to tell a story. This kind of tangential referencing is fantastic for building character in certain instances but overall, it weakens the story. Realistically, it adds an additional and unnecessary 200 pages to a very long-winded novel.

Character: 7/20

Darren’s character comes through loud and clear and I actually kind of like him up until his Dad comes out and he completely loses it. I get it; he’s upset and confused and constantly questioning his parents and their marriage but at the same time, it’s over-exaggerated and I couldn’t invest any more of my time in him past this point. And it just got worse as the novel went on. Nate was interesting in the beginning but his character wavers so much that he reads like a different character in each scene. The parents are OK for the roles that they’re playing; except maybe the father who’s a bit like a Parenting-101 counselor. I like Zoey but again, there’s isn’t much different about her that I haven’t seen before.

Quality of Writing: 13/20

The writing is great because it’s episodic and Hasak-Lowy manages to infuse character into his lists which I give him credit for. If he had trimmed it back a bit, it would have worked a lot better. Sometimes, the lists run on too long and become chapters, making it difficult to remember what the respective list is about.

Setting: 7/10

The fact that Hasak-Lowy can anchor us in Ann Arbor and Chicago, while writing a novel in lists, is pretty incredible, and much to his merit. It would have worked a lot better if he cut back on some of the lists and let character, setting and the story flow rather than washing us in a muddled tidal wave of all three where we find it difficult to clearly identify where we are, who the key players are and what’s going on. I Google-mapped Ann Arbor and looked at how long the journey is from Chicago. It’s about five hours or thereabouts but what I find interesting, is how badly conveyed and unclear this is in the story.

Comparative Literature: 4/10

The most interesting aspect of the novel is the lists but this is much to the detriment of story and character. It doesn’t offer anything new, apart from what appears to be a gimmick. John Green’s Paper Towns gives us Margo Roth Spiegelman, a mysterious yet humorous character and while the story has its faults, Q’s reaction to her disappearance is appropriate. Darren’s reaction to his Dad coming out is INSANE. I actually cannot imagine anyone acting like that, regardless of the circumstances. It’s supposed to be a coming-of-age novel but when you compare it to its contemporaries, it doesn’t stack up. I’m the first to criticize John Green’s work but he gets you invested and interested in his characters. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has some character issues but overall, it’s a superior caliber of story.

Overall Score: 51/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Slate it: It’s too long-winded and tangential to really invest your time and develop an emphatic to Darren. The unique selling point of this novel is also the final nail in its metaphorical coffin.

Books You May Also Like:

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – a humorous, coming-of-age story that explores romance, sexuality and friendship

Paper Towns by John Green – a story of love, lies and mysteries

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky – a profound story exploring sexuality, drugs, alcohol and depression

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‘Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda’ Flies The Flag For Diversity

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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Plot: 17/20                                              

On a microscopic level, it’s a story about a teenage boy “coming out”, not just to his friends and his family but to the world. When we zoom out, we see that it’s so much more than that. It’s about life and love; friendship and family; and ultimately, the unbreakable bonds that connect us as homo sapiens. The scene where Simon tells us that the story has very little to do with him and more to do with the people in his life really sums up the premise of the novel beautifully. When Simon is blackmailed by a classmate, he must help him if he wants to keep his sexuality a secret. Meanwhile, there’s Blue; a guy that Simon falls madly in love with and will do anything to protect. It’s a funny story, chronicling the ups and downs of everyday, teenage life. My only critique is that the author makes the identity of Blue all too predictable and so it takes some of the magic out of it for me. I think Albertalli could have also pushed the story a bit further in ways but overall, the plot is great and we’re finally starting to see the emergence of LGBT YA as a mainstream genre with universal appeal.

Narration: 18/20

Simon’s narration is generally spot-on. There are times when his perspective feels a bit stilted and generic, particularly at the beginning of the novel. Words like “freaking”/“fucking”/“fuckstorm”/“holy box of awkwardness”/“goober”/“goddamn”/“hell” make him come across as a bit of a caricature but luckily, he straddles the line so carefully that for the most part, it’s not an issue but when it is an issue, it’s like being hit by an eighty-miles-an-hour wind in December. Still, you can’t take away from the humorous narrative voice:

“So maybe it’s the winter air of maybe it’s soccer boy calves, but after everything that’s happened today, I’m actually in a pretty decent mood.”

Character: 18/20

There’s a lively cast of characters and even better, there’s tension and chemistry between them. The Leah-Abby-Nick triangle affects the other characters. Nick is great as the quiet musician. We see different sides to Marty; both vulnerability and a funnier, goofier side. We see the evolution of Simon’s character from start to finish. I particularly liked Simon’s sisters, Norah and Alice and the scene where Simon is grounded and, wanting to speak to Leah, he makes a deal with his Mom to allow her supervised access to his Facebook account. Seriously? They’re freaking hilarious! Simon has some really clever, witty lines too:

“‘The blondest circle of hell.’”

Quality of Writing: 20/20

Albertalli’s writing lulls you into the story with her easy, understated style. She demonstrates a powerful grasp of the English language while still staying true to what her character would do and say:

  • “So when the school day ends, and nothing extraordinary has happened, it’s a tiny heartbreak. It’s like eleven o’clock on the night of your birthday, when you realize no one’s throwing you a surprise party after all.”
  • “A couple of the girls put some junk in my hair to make it messy, which is basically like putting high heels on a giraffe.”
  • “And cranking Sufjan Stevens at top volume doesn’t solve anything, why is probably why people don’t crank Sufjan Stevens. My stomach is apparently on a spin cycle.”

Setting: 10/10

The story is set in Shady Creek and most of the action takes places at Creekwater High. Albertalli captures the physical settings perfectly but she adds another layer in her references to pop music (Tegan and Sara and Justin Bieber), specific locations (Chick-Fil-A) and gaming (Assassin’s Creed). Furthermore, the e-mails intrigue the reader and these, along with the Tumblr, lends the story a credible modernity.

Comparative Literature: 9/10

The writing is very reminiscent of Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Is it an original story? Not necessarily but Albertalli infuses the story with a modernity that Alex Sanchez’s and much of David Levithan’s works seem to lack. It’s s standout in its genre and something that will have universal appeal; it’s a story that will reach out to many teens, regardless of sexuality. Personally, I give Albertalli two-thumbs-up for managing for making something that could have been extremely niche, so universal.

Overall Score: 92/100

Rate it or Slate it?

Rate it: The words are the wrapping paper, the characters are the gift and somewhere in between lie the kernels of truth of the everyday life.

Books You May Also Like:

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan – for an LGBT story infused with character and humor

Geography Club by Brent Hartinger – a funny LGBT story that explores the sexuality and the social minefield

Rainbow Boys by David Sanchez – a coming-of-age story about three boys, their secrets and betrayals

The Perks of Being a Wallflower for that same easy readability

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan – for a story about two different Will Graysons that encompasses hope, serendipity and love

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April 10, 2015 · 7:53 am