Pretend I'm Dead

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Jul 2018

Member Reviews

In such a short novel, not much happens. Though yes, it lives up to the dark and dreary elements of it that makes it such a strange little book, there's not much joy to find within its words. I struggled to get through the majority of the book with little else happening but thoughts on drugs and people that get almost no explanation. There's a love story wedged in there, but it doesn't have much impact. I think this is the kind of book for a certain kind of reader, and unfortunately, that wasn't me.
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Absolutely fascinating, Mona is an extremely damaged young woman who has zero sense of self worth. This becomes apparent almost immediately as she starts dating Mr Disgusting, who is a heroin addict and twice her age. 
In this hard hitting and slightly uncomfortable novel we follow Mona as she slowly comes to terms with her past and takes control of her future.
Beautifully written with a brutal honesty that really brought Mona to life, the people that she met were described in rich detail. A definite recommendation.
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You could say that this is a coming of age story, but it is so much more than that. To me, it was more of an awakening. Mona is in her early 20s and hasn't really had the best start in life. We first meet her at a needle exchange where she volunteers and subsequently falls for an addict who has just got out of rehab. Even with that relationship pretty doomed from the start, she falls apart when it is over and, with her mentor also decamping on her, Mona gets that final push to actually start to think about the rest of her life. Off she goes to Taos, New Mexico where, lets just say, she meets a bunch of interesting people on this, her journey to find and become herself. 
I pretty much whizzed through this book, start to finish in only one sitting. I do love a good book about a wounded main character and this one was very reminiscent of the way Matthew Quick, one of my favourite authors, writes. Like Mr Quick's characters, Mona is not all likeable. Indeed she has some very strange quirks about her and is a little bit naive. But she had enough about her for me to really start to feel for her as I got to know her and, indeed, as she got to know herself. I laughed with her, I cried with her, and I also did a lot of cringing at her behaviour. She also had some lovely inner dialogue with her adopted higher powers du jour. At the beginning it almost seems like Mona just jumps on relationship after relationship in a pretty co-dependent way, compartmentalising everything she has in her life and keeping a lot inside her. But, through her own flashbacks and the things she does eventually tell people, she does manage to start to peel back the layers of her life to get to the defining moments and then, only then, is she able to start actually living it.
I am not sure it was meant to do this but I did take quite a bit personally from this book. There's actually quite a bit of wisdom to be found within the pages. Made me think a bit. Not that it professes to be a self help book but, as with all books of this ilk, there could be something there for the reader if he/she resonates with some of the themes. 
By the end of the book I was actually finding myself unwilling to let Mona go. Well, we'd been through a lot together and I was just starting to get to know the real her. Whether we hear more about her in future books or whether I just carry on her journey in my own head, I think that Mona will stay with me for a little while yet.
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
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I really enjoyed the first half of this. Mona had a great voice in the beginning as did Mr. Disgusting. However, as the novel went on both voices lost their focus and it became a tedious read. The topics and situations were engaging but the author just couldn't find the right pace or development for me.
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This was an amazing debut.  Engrossing and original story.
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This book is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine on acid. Odd, funny, and doesn't go on longer than it needs to - a bit like my reviews. Just excellent!
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The book had an interesting plot, although the loss of one of the main characters early on was a shame. It addresses some uncomfortable themes which will not be for everyone. Written in easy prose, it was quick to read. I neither enjoyed it nor hated it.
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Pretend I’m Dead is a really unusual, psychedelic gem of a novel. Mona is a twenty-something volunteer in a needle exchange programme. Her dad, Mickey, is a deadbeat and the only stability she has in her life is the sole-trader house cleaner she works for. Mona has a brain but no particular drive. She works hard, but without direction. When she tells people she is a cleaner, they assume she must have something else she is working towards - white girls don’t clean houses. 

The novel follows Mona over a couple of years, focusing in turn on four relationships and how they change the direction of her life. 

First up, there’s Mr Disgusting, a middle aged junkie to whom Mona supplies needles. She begins a friendship because why not? Apart from the junk, he’s a decent guy. He tells Mona to move from her Massachusetts dead end to Taos, some kind of hippy Mecca in New Mexico. So off she goes, with the remaining three sections focusing in turn on her relationship with her neighbours Nigel and Shiori (English and Japanese); then a rather sick businessman called Henry who seems to have lost his inhibitions, and finally a psychic called Betty. 

Each of the relationships allows Mona to grow in unexpected directions. And always, behind everything, there is the fractured relationship Mona has with her father. 

What makes the novel is Mona’s charm. She is utterly guileless, but not stupid. She is aware of people’s failings and deviousness; she simply chooses not to get involved. As a cleaner, she sees people’s secrets. She could use them for good or for evil, but mostly she just dwells on them in a brain that seems to be perpetually half-tripping. She has a strong personal morality and will happily do things that are against her best interests if she thinks they are the right things to do, yet her morality is unlikely to coincide with those of 90% of the population. She looks at the world with a mixture of astonishment and resignation.

And for the lack of direction, she dreams. Idle dreams, not always nice dreams - a bit like Jenny in the Threepenny Opera - where something will change and she will be the lynchpin around which the action revolves. 

There’s quirkiness too. Mona likes photography, taking selfies in compromising positions in clients houses. Just to mix things up a little.

Looking back on this, it all sounds a bit whimsical. It really isn’t. It is gritty, it is real, it is funny and it is sad. If it were a film, it would be Amelie.
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When you read this book, you'll realise you are not unique...there are others with the same twisted humour as you. Jen Beagin has written a counter-culture gem; a women's whip-smart riposte to Bukowski bravado. It's almost too good to share but like Mona; 'I'm actually a fan of creepy honesty'.
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A quick and quirky read with some colourful characters and some genuinely funny moments. But for me this went nowhere and left me largely unmoved. It seemed more like a series of loosely connected vignettes that didn't really progress the plot. Mona was an intriguing character but I got no sense of development from her at all. I was kept entertained by the quirkiness of the characters but they just didn't do anything to the point that I couldn't really say what the book was about. I guess this one was just not for me and I feel disappointed by that because I felt like I should love it. But I didn't unfortunately.
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Pretend I’m dead by Jen Beagin a four-star read that will leave you thinking. This was not what I expected, I picked it up thinking it looked different and I was just in the mood for a palate cleanser and wow this really did cleanse the palate. I’ve seen this described as Frank and unflinching and it is in places. It’s also darkly comedic and filled with characters that you may not always like but you will always be behind and wanting to read the next line, page or chapter to find out what they get up to next. Mona’s journey is a fascinating one that takes her places I can only imagine. Not everyone will like this book as some of the subjects aren’t agreeable to all, but give it a go, it may just change the ways you think and feel.
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This was a strange sort of attraction at first sight (the title alone is so intriguing) negotiated down by reluctance to engage with a 24 year old protagonist. Yes, I know, I’m an ageist, but can you blame me? This generation has been just all sorts of unattractive. Although I’m very glad to have finally decided to follow my initial instinct and check this book out, because a. it’s pretty terrific and b. it’s set judging by cultural clues in the mid 90s, entirely different, far more tolerable generation. Also weirdly aimless and existential, but in much more agreeable way. And, despite her young years, the protagonist here is actually the real deal, someone who can carry an entire story by her idiosyncratic self. In fact, she’s a singular literary creation, stumbling through life to a very distinct and distinctly irregular beat, ghosts of her past shaping the shapeless contours of her present in a subtle and compelling way. Not an easy book to describe, not particularly action driven, definitely more of a personal journey (discovery just sounds too new agey) sort of thing, about a young woman and a variegated cast of supporting characters in her life. But it’s just so good, so well done, so original, darkly humorous in a perfectly understated manner, quirky in the best possible way, such an original perspective. Not often can someone so unrelatable be so completely engaging and for this major kudos to the author, it’s quite an accomplishment, particularly for a debut. Strikingly odd, immensely readable and definitely memorable book. Brief at only 208 pages and such a quick read, I actually didn’t want it to end, but it was lovely while it lasted. Thanks Netgalley.
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