Thursday, April 9, 2015

A List of Things That Didn't Kill Me by Jason Schmidt [Review]

A List of Things That Didn't Kill Me 3.5 out of 5 Robots!

A List of Things That Didn't Kill Me by Jason Schmidt

Genre: Memoir
Release: January 6, 2015
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
My Copy: Publisher
Reviewer: Shannon

Book Summary:
How does a good kid overcome a bad childhood? Jason Schmidt's searing debut memoir explores that question with unflinching clarity and wit, in the tradition of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.

Jason Schmidt wasn't surprised when he came home one day during his junior year of high school and found his father, Mark, crawling around in a giant pool of blood. Things like that had been happening a lot since Mark had been diagnosed with HIV, three years earlier.

Jason’s life with Mark was full of secrets—about drugs, crime, and sex. If the straights—people with normal lives—ever found out any of those secrets, the police would come. Jason’s home would be torn apart. So the rule, since Jason had been in preschool, was never to tell the straights anything.

A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me is a funny, disturbing memoir full of brutal insights and unexpected wit that explores the question: How do you find your moral center in a world that doesn't seem to have one?

(Courtesy of the Publisher)

Shannon's Thoughts:
This book is extremely hard for me to review.  I can't say that I enjoyed it, but I can't say that I didn't like it?  It's tough because I found the subject matter difficult to read, but thought it was well written.

Here is what I liked:
**I liked Jason.  I felt sympathetic towards him, although given his description of himself, I'm not sure I would like him in real life.  But I think he did a good job of showing his better side and allowing me to see the world through his eyes.

**The writing was good.  I don't tend towards memoirs because I sometimes find the writing stiff or stilted.  But I found Jason's writing fairly fluid, although a bit detached.  I kind of liked the vignette-style writing and the jumping around.  It kept my interest.  

**I also like the outcome of Jason's story and how he rose above where he came from to do better than his father did before him.

**I liked that it was set in my hometown of Seattle.  It was a little before my time, but I still recognized a lot of the places Jason mentioned.  

Here is what I didn't like:
**The subject matter was difficult and left a bad taste in my mouth.  It's not I shy away from tough subjects necessarily, but I don't enjoy reading about drug abuse, child abuse or addiction.  

**The weird relationship Jason had with his dad.  Sometimes he sounds nostalgic, but then other times he talks about how distant he felt at the end towards his dad and how angry he was towards him.  But I didn't always feel that from his story.  

**I wish Jason's father's HIV+ status was explored more.  Jason spends most of his time recalling his young years, and does not spend as much time as his teen years.  I would have liked to have seen more from the impact of having an HIV+ father in a the time before much was known about the disease.

**I was promised funny and it isn't really.  Or at least, I failed to see the humor in it.


I found this book partly compelling and partly repelling.  I was turned off by the subject matter, but felt sympathetic towards Jason and was interested in his story.  It was a hard book for me rate because of this.  I thought it was well written, but the subject matter was not something I like to read about.  

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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