Thursday, March 10, 2016

This is Awkward by Sammy Rhodes

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book for the purpose of review. My integrity is not for sale. Those who know me well are aware a free book isn't enough to assuage my cutting honesty. If I've failed to write a bad review, it has nothing to do with the source of the material and only with the material itself.

This was supposed to be a comedy. Perhaps it was some marketing flaw, but I signed up to receive and review this book because I thought it was straight comedy - just some pastor guy making jokes. I expected it to be tacky and bad (because "Christian" versions of regular things generally are), but it seemed intriguing and lighter fare than what I've been reading, so I got it.

Then like, paragraph three comes along and it's serious. Now I'm confused. The introduction tells the reader to look this guy up on the internet, because he apparently survived some Twitter plagiarism scare. That's not super-endearing, although: points for honesty. Sammy Rhodes is a pastor guy trying to be funny - he's a guy who works with college students and I think this book is designed for them and will appeal to them.

At the same time, its really important. I wanted to say "deadly serious" there, but that sounds ominous and is, well, wrong. The book talks about serious things, but not really in a serious way. He's casual and honest and that makes what he has to say easier to hear. Rhodes is open about his problems - with marriage, self-esteem, depression, lust, parenting, life in general. He talks openly and honestly in ways the Church has long needed to do and largely avoided. There's a lot of good stuff here.

Plus, the book gets better as it goes along, which is always nice.

Now I want to say this next part carefully. Sammy Rhodes is a guy who knows the rise and fall of internet fame. He understands deeply how easy it is to devalue people, ignore them selfishly, and make them feel "less than;" he's pretty open about all of that in the book. At the same time, he's not funny. There are, indeed, lots of attempts at humor, including some random journal-esque pieces that reflect on the task of writing and help to separate sections of the book. They're just not funny.*

As I said before, Rhodes' real gift is being casual; discussing important things in a calm, friendly manner that de-escalates the stress and pressure these topics so often invoke. When he's being self-deprecating or humble, yes, there's humor there, but it's more the creation of a safe space. The attempts at jokes are painful (although I did laugh, for some reason, at the joke about Whoppers tasting like "old people covered in chocolate") and almost detract from the book. Sorry, Sammy, just trying to write an honest review.

I started out this book with really low expectations, soon was surprised to find out it might be pleasantly mediocre, and finished with a real appreciation for what Rhodes was able to do with This is Awkward. It's a good book about important things that feels graceful and safe; it's something I'd certainly recommend people read, especially people trying to tackle the minefield of relationships and self-worth.

I can't help but thinking that's more than any author could ask for.

*Except the idea for writing a book about Disney movies four years later - that's a killer idea and should definitely, seriously, 100% really be his next book. I might even buy it.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® 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.”

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