Book review: Pretend I’m Dead by Jen Beagin

How can I sum up this book? It felt like I was absently chomping through a bag of different types of sweets (sour, minty, sweet, tart, chewy), not knowing what taste sensation I would experience next and when I had eaten the last sweet, I crumpled the bag up and left. Basically, a typical conversation with a 24 year-old who is mainly heterosexual/possibly bi-curious. And that’s pretty much what the book is about.

Mona, cleans homes to make ends meet, she drifts along and meets different people. She has low self-esteem and only feels valued when engaging with men. She is alone and is cynical, ostensibly because of an abusive childhood. The book is well-written in parts, and it is annoying that it is inconsistent in that respect. But, I didn’t really find Mona’s behaviour surprising – all expected and ticked numerous boxes. Lot’s of people in their early 20s do have a self-destructive edge. What I did find surprising about the book was the cover – it said ‘laugh out-loud funny’, and it wasn’t.

jen-beagin-pretend-im-deadSome of the lines:

  • ‘So he’d almost killed her and then told her she looked like a fish – big deal, people make mistakes. She was getting over it.’
  • ‘How long you in town for? she asked. I leave tomorrow morning. Clothing aside, his attractiveness immediately increased by 40 percent.’
  • ‘Do you have friends? I haven’t gotten around to making any, but it’s on my list.’

The book ends as abruptly as it begins … and I didn’t mind that it ended, in fact I didn’t care. I guess I found it sad that a 20-something year old would still need to reference all her experiences, feelings and salvation to men.


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