Book review: You Are Not You by Simon Rosenberg

2/5 stars

So… Thanks to Netgalley and the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. And unfortunately, because I’m being honest, my review of this particular book is not very positive. I very nearly gave up on this one several times, and ended up skimming through some of it.

The premise sounds very exciting: Sam is in therapy, but becomes increasingly concerned with his therapist Roberta’s behaviour. Roberta sees Sam’s girlfriend as a problem, she seems to want to keep him to herself, within her control. Sam decides to leave therapy, but starts to notice that his world is increasingly populated by Roberta’s other clients. Is Roberta an evil mastermind with a pathological need to control her patients minds or is Sam going completely mad?

And there are indeed bits of the book that are exciting, but it just has too many problems to weigh up for that. I think I get what the author is going for: a sort of feverish paranoia that takes place mostly in the minds of people and nobody really knows what’s going on. As the story progresses and things keep twisting and turning, the fear and paranoia ratchets up.

Unfortunately it doesn’t really work because of several reasons:

  1. The story is just too all over the place. You don’t have a sense of “oh I think this is what’s actually going on, no wait, here’s a clue, it must really be like this”, because it feels like literally anything could be happening or anything could be true at any point in the story. This takes away suspense and interest.
  2. The characters have absolutely no personality. They are given no background to speak of, they have no real chemistry and I ultimately just didn’t care what happened to them. They were cardboard cut-outs being propelled through a narrative they had little to no control over.
  3. It’s bogged down by inner monologues/thoughts that I personally didn’t find interesting and didn’t shed any light on the story. These are the parts that I started skimming, and it really gets in the way of the parts of the story that do have some excitement.
  4. Sort of related to point one, but nothing is ever actually made clear, there’s no reveal of how things really are at the end – it could all still be one way or another and nothing is properly explained. And the ending is just plain weird.

It sort of feels like someone had a really detailed and long nightmare, and then just wrote it all down, complete with random weird things happening, no cohesive narrative or proper ending. You just wake up and think “huh, that was weird, I’m glad it’s not real”.  And maybe that works for some, but it did not work for me.

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