- Book Title: I’m the Guy You Hate
- Author: Isa K
- Publisher: Wilde City Press (April 12, 2015)
- Book Length: 227 pages
- Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Literary Fiction
- Reviewed by: Diane
- Rating: 4 Star
- Posting Date: October 8, 2015
I’m going to be right up front with you: you will either love this book, or you will hate this book. It’s billed as a romance but what it is is a case study in dysfunction, in manipulative and sociopathic behaviors, and a cautionary tale about the people who enable dysfunction, voluntarily or involuntarily. It’s also a treatise on mental illness and how it manifests and steamrolls over those who live peripherally outside the cages the mind builds. It’s a detailed look at self-destructive behaviors and the fine divide between tolerance and intolerance.
If you are wrinkling your nose and backing away… don’t just yet.
Mark is the passive-aggressive court jester, awash in frenemies. You know Mark, yes you do. But to know Mark in the Big Apple context, in a cultural milieu that rings so true it appears false, means you need to look at some uncomfortable truths about urban relationships and the shallow end of the pool where the cool kids play.
Mark is the lens through which we see ourselves in unhealthy contexts. And the object of his interest, the wall against which he bounces his ephemeral personas, is the unfortunate Jonny, a successful man in a midlist PR career and a lonely gay man life has shoved into the slow lane of self-deprecation and diminishing returns.
The story is a slice of life, a ‘When Jonny Met Mark’ theatrical set piece with all the pathos of a Woody Allen work without the subtext of humor and gentle insights. Oh yes, there are insights aplenty, but they are all of the wrecking ball variety, edged in hysteria and gilded caged in denial.
Neither Mark nor Jonny is exactly “right” but the wrongness of Mark isn’t directly addressed until 2/3’s of the way through the book, and then the diagnosis is delivered by an unlikely source and built on premises that might or might not be valid without referencing a textbook on abnormal behaviors.
As wild and outrageous as Jonny and Mark might seem, it’s to the minor characters you look when you want to paint the face of self-absorption, insensitivity and even pure evil. They aren’t the reasons why Mark and Jonny are the way they are, but they float that boat of dysfunction sans oars with uncommon enthusiasm.
The world view as drawn here isn’t pleasant or happy or even vaguely socially redeeming, yet the writing is often so stellar you can’t help yourself in dog-paddling behind a ship that you hope will sink sooner rather than later. And to finish it, to follow the logic of the heart and the mind to the finale, means you might have to be the last one standing with any residual sanity at all.
I disagreed, stridently, with Jonny’s decision at the end, but then… I’m not Jonny, I don’t get to make his decisions and I don’t get to live with his consequences, and though I can be as judgmental as I want, in the end it’s a moot point since my choices would never be the same. Apples and oranges.
If you follow the path toward redemption and convergence as laid out, you arrive at the nexus of understanding and sympathy. I saw that intersection as an either/or. Another reader might think differently.
I’m the Guy You Hate is heavy on introspection, overburdened with angst, and drama heavy but plot lite. Those characteristics make the timeline seem a little ‘off’—so much angst, so little time—and you wonder why Jonny is still thirty-eight and why months go by but time doesn’t. That kind of disconnect.
I did not buy the diagnosis, not was the prognosis especially appealing. But that’s my worldview poking its head into a narrative to which I am to be a spectator, not a participant. Right. Try doing that with exceptional writing and characters so outsized and damaged you can’t but help stepping inside their heads.
Mercy, how to rate this? Loved it, hated it. I riffed on the moments of insight, despaired at the incessant mea culpas, and was happy I wasn’t like any of them. It’s a hella ride through pysches you’re likely never to meet (and be thankful for that), but if you have… well, as they say, gods bless.
Let’s cautiously recommend this with 4*: for the writing, for the complexity of the characterizations, and the author’s ability to engage the reader (often against this reader’s will!).
Thirty-eight year old Jonny Ordell is hopelessly in love with his friend Mark Dorsett. There’s just one small problem: Mark Dorsett is insane.
Not a charming, cute, surprisingly insightful kind of insane. The kind of mental illness that rips apart Jonny’s insides and turns otherwise good people into villains. It isn’t Mark’s fault. It’s not like he asked to be sick. At the same time Mark’s erratic behavior and his refusal to get help is destroying everything in his path, including Jonny.
Now Jonny must decide: does he stand by his man and hope loyalty and love are enough to make Mark realize the error of his ways? Or does he abandon Mark to his illness and save himself? Neither choice offers much hope of happiness. As their affair continues Jonny must confront the possibility that his love is not healing Mark, it may actually be making him worse.
Isa K is a writer and techie currently residing in New York. Anything published under ‘Isa K’ is fantastic smut, anything under ‘IsaKFT’ is just fantastic 😉
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