I hadn’t heard anything about Me Being Me Is Exactly As Insane As You Being You before I saw it sitting on the shelf at my local library. I picked it up because I have fondness for crazy long and somewhat unwieldy titles, and the whole list format sounded really interesting. It’s been about a month since I read it now, actually, so I’ve had a while to stew about how I felt about it.
Me Being Me is a novel told entirely in lists, telling the story of Darren, who has been struggling to deal with how his life has changed since his parents got divorced and his brother Nate went off to college. Just before Darren and his dad are about to travel to meet up with Nate, his father reveals something to Darren, which ultimately leads to him taking the bus interstate, along with some unexpected company.
I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before how difficult I find summarising novels into a neat little paragraph, but this is the first time I’ve had to seriously hold back from getting too sarcastic. This was a book that I had quite a few issues with, particularly with main character Darren, and that I very nearly DNF’ed.
The thing is, I really liked the list format. I’ve seen a number of reviews complaining that there was a lot of irrelevant stuff (for want of a better word) that the lists went through, but I didn’t feel like that was an issue. For one thing, the lists really amplified the “just one more chapter” kind of sensation I got, because some of these lists were maybe half a page in length, so I just kept reading despite myself. It created a bit of a meandering, unfocused, chaotic feel to the novel, but I think it worked really well.
Had it not been for the readability of the format, I think I would have given up on Darren’s story halfway in, mostly because of the character of Darren himself. I have a pretty high tolerance for moping characters, or selfish characters, but I found Darren pretty unbearable. Not once did I notice him consider how the events of the story would affect anyone but himself, nor did he ever worry whether somebody might be hurt by his behaviour. The thing is, it felt like I was supposed to sympathise with him. He wasn’t an intentionally unlikeable character, he was just a selfish, immature brat.
He seemed to become more irritating as the story went on. Early in the story, he seemed a bit bemused, and a little hopeless but decent enough. There’s a clear split in the story where there’s a break of a couple of months, and it’s after that point that Darren really started to get on my nerves. His treatment of Rachel is uber-douchey, getting with her on a music camp despite his hang-up on Zoey and continuing that relationship, pretty much using Rachel for sex and never seeing her as an actual human with actual feelings. Zoey was equally objectified, and it was clear that he was in love with the idea of her rather than who she was as a person. The twerpiness of Darren’s character continues into his relationship with his parents, never considering that they might just also be affected by the divorce and his dad’s secret. When his mum is offered a job interstate, for example, all he thinks about is how it will impact him, and the thought that it might be good for her doesn’t even enter his head. I would have been fine if he’d been conflicted about it, because fair enough, but his selfishness by this stage had driven me up the wall. Similarly with his dad’s secret (which is revealed early on, but I still feel is mildly spoiler-ish?), Darren doesn’t seem to think about how it might be affecting his dad at any point in the story. So yeah. Darren just was a sucky person, with little to redeem him as a character, really.
Characterisation didn’t get much better with the other characters. Zoey, the love interest was a textbook manic pixie dream girl, who could have potentially been interesting had she had been a vaguely developed character. Instead, she’s just the moody, rebellious girl in black that Darren spends the entire book pining over, without knowing a single thing about her apart that her relationship with her parents isn’t great. She’s an object of desire, and that’s about it. Rachel, the girl Darren gets with isn’t any better developed, kind of passive and adoring of Darren. Nate, Darren’s brother was okay as a character, but never really got himself out of the stoner/slacker older brother trope. The most interesting characters were Darren’s parents, and possibly Ray, who we didn’t see all that much of but seemed pretty cool.
The thing is, despite the fact that the character side of things was so bad, the writing itself was engaging, so that’s probably why it’s a 2.5 stars from me. Me Being Me was a bit of a disappointment for me, and what could have been a really interesting way of telling a story was let down by poor characters.