So, this is awkward… Really. I follow Sammy Rhodes (@SammyRhodes) on Twitter because I can empathize with his humorous, self-deprecating, introverted gluttony in 144 characters or less. That kind of awkward I can handle. The first half of This Is Awkward I could not.
When Rhodes announced his upcoming book, I thought to myself, “I really hope it works for him because he doesn’t need one more thing that denies him some affirmation.” I didn’t plan on reading it (ever), but when it came up as an option for me to review, I decided to see just how awkward it was going to be. I’ve never not finished a book I agreed to review, but I really wanted to put this one down.
The forced insertions of journal-like entries of his writing process in the middle of the actual writing, none of which are contextually appropriate in any way, only emphasized the uncomfortable way in which this first book was written. I assume the intent was to find a novel way in which to engage the reader in the life of the awkward Sammy Rhodes and the difficult process of writing a book, but they really read like further desires for affirmation and “I really hope you like this book and don’t write about hating it because my insecurities may not be able to handle it.” I’m not sure if I should feel pity or just more awkwardness… (Probably both.) Here’s an utterly inappropriate and awkward example of just how inappropriately awkward the book is: Rhodes honestly and vulnerably talks about an older boy physically “teaching” him about sexuality, which leads Rhodes to question whether or not he’s gay as a child; but then, in one of this disjointed journal entries, immediately follows with (intentional or not, I really can’t tell) the difficulty in peeling and eating a banana while writing. … Yes, that happened. (My apologies for instilling in you the awkwardness this book instilled in me.)
However, things began to change with Chapter 6: “I Kissed Marriage Hello After Kissing Dating Goodbye.” The first few pages are laugh-out-loud stories leading up to and including Rhodes’ wedding day. Seriously awkward. Seriously funny. I’m not sure how much time elapsed between his beginning to write the book and the start of this latter half of the manuscript, but the writing and appropriate level of awkward definitely change for the better. I began to buy into the journal entries as part of the journey, even though I still didn’t care much for their integration without connective material. I made it to the end without wincing the whole way.
In addition to what I’ve already written about the writing style, I must include the perpetual appeal to pop-culture references of which the reader may or may not be aware. This isn’t that surprising from someone who got his start in a social media following, but that kind of writing (to me) feels a lot like using other’s ideas because the author does not have enough words of his own. (This should not be confused with plagiarism, for which Rhodes has previously been accused, to what legitimate extent I know not.) I simply find it a bit too cliché and leaving the reader left out if unaware of the references (like what John Eldridge does with movies and plays, but with a broader range). (Rhodes also misidentifies some of his references, although the points he makes by them are not thereby negatively affected.)
Rhodes has some good stuff in here, but I’m not sure wading through the rest of the text is worth the effort. Perhaps other articles, subsequent tweets, or maybe another book will prove beneficial in bringing out that information now that the ice has been broken.
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”