book review: This Is Awkward, by Sammy Rhodes

Based upon the title, cover design, my prior experience with the author, and my knowledge of the subject matter at hand, I fully expected to hate this book.

Now, having finished the book, I can say my feelings toward it are those of ambivalence. In other words, it wasn’t as bad as I expected. In fact, some parts of it were very good. But, unfortunately, still other parts were kind of what I expected: bland, annoying, trite.

Rhodes’ primary thesis is that our awkwardness provides an opportunity for vulnerability and intimacy in our relationships with others and God. Okay, that sounds good. Only this seemed like a weak thread tenuously connecting what was otherwise a random collection of essays on various life subjects. Some of these essays were rather poignant and insightful (such as those relating to marriage and introversion), while others were what you might read in any number blog posts written by Christian twenty-somethings: nothing special.

When you read this book, you find that Sammy Rhodes has seen his fair share of cringe-worthy life experiences, from pouring wine all over his wife’s body on his wedding night to his parents’ messy divorce to his daughter’s potentially tragic congenital disease. His ability to speak on a variety of difficult subjects comes firsthand, and that I can appreciate. During those chapters that were particularly pertinent to my life, I found some applicable and relatable wisdom, specifically related to being a good husband and an introvert in the church.

However, I struggled with the way Sammy Rhodes presented his wisdom. While I know he is considered a humorist, it seemed like he was trying too hard to insert a joke wherever possible. As a result, sentence structure, continuity of thought, and the overall quality of the book suffered. If I could have given some advice to Rhodes before his book was published, it would be to cut out the jokes, particularly the tired tropes of Christian humor (Chick-fil-a, WWJD bracelets, side-hugs, etc.). Good humor in books should subtle and clever; unfortunately, Rhodes’ use of humor in this book was neither, and it made the reading sluggish.

Overall, This is Awkward isn’t a bad first stab at literature from Sammy Rhodes. It’s not great either. It just is what it is. Some things are good, like his ability to speak from experience, his willingness to share personal and somewhat embarrassing anecdotes, and his consistent reminders that God’s grace more than makes up for our human stupidity. Some things are not good, like the pervasive, contextually clueless, and irritating interludes which appear to be excerpts from his journal, in which he constantly complains and complains and complains about how much he doesn’t want to write or can’t possibly write or how much people will hate what he writes.

On page 132, Rhodes states, “[I]f there’s one thing introverts are good at, it’s recommending books.” That’s a true statement, but unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be recommending this one. Not because it’s terrible, but because it’s not a terribly worthwhile read. If your decision to read this book hinges on my review, then I’d encourage you to pass on by, my friend.

My rating: 2.5/5

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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