Shrill (★★★★☆)

Hey, guys! Remember me?! It sure feels like it has been forever. I didn’t even post my April recap. Because I’m obviously a slacker. Oh, well. Ironically, I’ve been reading a lot… I just haven’t been writing a lot. But I’m about to make up for lost time by posting an annoying number of reviews at once. Sorry in advance. Also, hope you enjoy!

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Lindy West  *  Hachette Books  *  May 17, 2016  *  272 Pages

Advanced Reader Copy provided by Amazon Vine.

I wasn’t familiar with Lindy West before reading this book, but, wow, what an intense first impression! West is crazy outspoken–definitely to the point of being abrasive (and even obnoxious) at times. She is shockingly honest and relentlessly blunt about her opinions, her feelings, her experiences. Reading this book is like being slapped in the face. Over and over and over again. There is nothing gentle about it.

Initially, I wasn’t even sure I was going to enjoy the book. The first essay, “Are You There, Margaret? It’s Me, a Person Who Is Not a Complete Freak,” is the least powerful one in the bunch, in my opinion. It feels forced, more of a showboat piece, like “Look how gross I can be! Girls can be gross, too!” Truthfully, I was mentally writing her off after that one.

But I kept reading–because I am a faithful reader–and once I got to “Bones” and then especially to “How to Stop Being Shy in Eighteen Easy Steps” and then especially-especially to “Hello, I Am Fat,” well, holy smokes. I was hooked.

Because beyond all the sass and attitude, beyond the snarky, slightly pretentious “We, as a society, need to…” comments, there is also plenty of good, insightful, powerful, and heartfelt writing in here. For example:

“It’s flattering to believe that we transform ourselves through a set of personal tangibles: Steely resolve and the gentle forbearance of a mysterious young widow who wandered in off the moor, but reality is almost always more mundane. Necessity. Luck. Boredom. Exhaustion. Time. Willpower is real, but it needs the right conditions to thrive.”

Or “It was no kind of relationship, but, at age twenty-seven, it was still the best relationship I’d ever had, so I set my jaw and attempted to sculpt myself into the kind of golem who was fascinated by the 10k finishing times of someone who still called me his ‘friend’ when he talked to his mom… I thought, at the time, that love was perseverance.”

I mean, she’s got a way with words. And she puts it all out there. When she talks about “being fat” in “Hello, I Am Fat,” I felt like I understood something–someone–that I didn’t before. It’s powerful stuff…even if it isn’t the most pleasant.

Bottom line, West has a strong perspective–and presence–and, though she can be over-the-top at times, I think the world is a better place for having her in it. I’m glad I read this book, and I’ll be interested to hear what West has to say next. I’m going to steal (slash modify) her words and say, “Write, little soldier. Write.” We’re listening.

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