The Unpredictability of “Me!” Books

Posted March 26, 2015 by Stormy in Books / 34 Comments

Have you ever seen other bloggers toss around the phrase, “This was such a ME! book” or “It sounds like such a ME! book”? I know I have, and I know I’ve also heard that phrase. A “ME!” book is a personal thing to every reader, but I would classify a “ME!” book as a book that might as well have been tailor-crafted just to my reading taste.

Here’s my issue with “ME!” books though: I don’t really know what a “ME!” book is. By which I mean, there are books I classify as “ME!” books, but only after reading. There are books I think sound like such a “ME!” book, but that I end up marking as DNF. And there are books that I LOVE, but that wouldn’t classify as “ME!” books.

Need an example? Let’s look at my last two 5-star reads: When Joss Met Matt and A Darker Shade of Magic. I LOVED both those books. I gave them the same rating. They both made an impression in my mind. Yet, I would say that When Joss Met Matt is not a “ME!” book. I loved it, but it was more an alignment of great story elements rather than things that stand out to me on their own. On the flip side, A Darker Shade of Magic is a book I would classify as a “ME!” book. It’s a fantasy with so many of the things I love–parallel travels, banter, wonderful characters, pretty much no romance(which was such a delightful surprise!).

I begun thinking about this, and went to my 5 star reads and tried to figure out which ones I would classify as “ME!” books to see what they had in common–and what they didn’t.

The “ME!” Books:

  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, because it’s an apocalypse book that’s hilarious, witty, and often profound
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab, because it has magic, parallel universes, banter, excellent villains, and no romance
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles, because it’s a classic coming-of-age story set at a boarding school(pretty much a sucker for those–I’m looking at you, Looking for Alaska and Winger), and is written beautifully
  • Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot, for pretty much all the same reasons as A Separate Peace, plus Gatsby-esque feel
  • Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas, because psychological thriller about messed-up people and a complex and SUPER intriguing female protagonist
  • Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, because it’s funny, cute, the main character has an interesting group of friends, and there’s lots of nerdy references to Harry Potter
  • Pivot Point by Kasie West, because it has a bookish main character and parallel realities
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, because the writing is gorgeous, the characters are so fully realized, and it’s set in Texas
  • Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, because the main character is shy & doesn’t fit in anywhere, the prose is beautiful, and it’s a coming-of-age story
  • Smart Girls Get What They Want by Sarah Strohmeyer, because the characters are awesome and I related to it quite a bit
  • All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill, because time-travel
  • The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma, because its about messed-up girls, has unreliable narrators, and the writing is beautiful
  • This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, because I related to it so much
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, because Cath reminded me so much of myself and for all the fandom references

14 books. Not that many when you take into consideration that I consistently read between 50-150 books a year. And it’s worth noting that the books I said were “ME!” books because I could relate to the characters are mostly books I didn’t know were “ME!” books until after reading(with the exception of Fangirl). The books from that list that I guessed were “ME!” books before reading? Not that many–A Darker Shade of Magic, All Our Yesterdays, Fangirl, and Even in Paradise.

Plus, there are so many books I love that I wouldn’t classify as “ME!” books. So often, I ended up loving those books despite my initial reservations. Here are just a couple of books from my 5-star reads:

  • Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz–loved it, but only read it because I loved Aristotle and Dante, and on its own a story about an 18-year-old alcoholic in rehab would have never appealed to me
  • Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver–not the kind of characters I generally enjoy reading about
  • I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson–This was my favorite book of 2014, but it’s not a book I would have picked up at all if it hadn’t been for the hype. There are actually many things in this book that I generally dislike, but Jandy Nelson managed to write it in a way that made me love it. A favorite, but not a “ME!” book.
  • Cinder by Marissa Meyer–Not a huge fan of Cinderella, so “Cyborg Cinderella” doesn’t really appeal to me. Just took a chance on this series(and I’m glad I did!)
  • The Distance Between Us by Kasie West–contemporary romance is generally not my thing
  • The Enchanted by Rene Denefeld–it’s set in a prison, which is also generally not my thing
  • My Life After Now by Jessi Verdi–again, subject matter thing. It’s about a girl who learns she’s HIV positive

And that’s just from a cursory glance. Plus, then there’s the handful of books I didn’t even finish, despite thinking they were such “ME!” books when I first read the synopsis. Am I just bad at picking out “ME!” books, or is it really impossible to tell what a “ME!” book is before reading? I’d like to think I know myself better as a reader. After all, I’ve gotten pretty good at realizing what books I’ll like and which I won’t(though there will always be surprises).

Thoughts on this? Do you have books you categorize as “ME!” books? How do you make that distinction? Is it just a gut feeling thing? And are you good at realizing “ME!” books prior to reading them?



34 responses to “The Unpredictability of “Me!” Books

  1. Alright, I know, behind the times again. BUT I loved this post when I read it back in March and saved it in my Feedly. I can’t predict “me” books either. Perfect example – The Elemental series by Sherry Thomas. Elemental magic? Bantery relationship? Girl in disguise and guy having to pretend his new friend is a dude so he can’t be affectionate with her? IT EXHIBITS ALL THE SIGNS. TONS OF PEOPLE LOVE IT. And yet me? I DON’T GET IT. I want to get it. I want to love it. I practically drool when I see the covers and at least the first one has been out for years. But as hard as I’ve tried, I cannot love it. I like it okay, but it doesn’t make me swoon and I thought it would. Just because those elements worked in another series doesn’t mean they work every time.

    I’m not saying I haven’t used the phrase – I probably have. I just don’t know what it means. Maybe just that I like something. It spoke to me. It possessed an indefinable quality that makes me fall down ecstatically – like The Night Circus, The Blue Sword, Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive. They’re me – I just can’t tell you why.

    • Stormy

      YES sometimes there’s a book that feels like it SHOULD be a me book. . and it isn’t. And there are times when a book SHOULDN’T be a me book, and it so is. I always think of my response to I’ll Give You the Sun for that. It has so many devices I don’t normally like. There are talks of SOUL MATES for instance which almost always gets an eye-roll from me, but I LOVE THAT BOOK SO MUCH. SO MUCH. It’s a favorite like top 10 of all time book. My “me” books are just so subjective.

  2. Just wanted to stop by and join in the love for Tell the Wolves I’m Home. I finished it today, and… wow. I honestly don’t have words.

  3. This is so interesting! I definitely have “Me” books, and most of my very close friends are able to peg certain books as such. There’s just this weird, unspoken list of elements in stories that I gravitate towards and love nearly every single time. I think part of this has to do with the fact that I have very specific tastes in books and don’t stray outside of a certain type/genre very often.

    On the other hand, when I think about my reader friends, there are probably only two or three that I could come up with “Me” books for.

    • Stormy

      I think part of what you mentioned–that you don’t often stray outside of a certain type of book–is why I have so much trouble picking “Me” books, because my taste jump all over the place & it’s really easy for me to pin down what I love/don’t love for a specific book, but it’s harder to get a sense of that over my reading taste in general.

  4. This is a good question! I may have to look into my top reads and think about what made me love them! I bet a lot of them have angst-ridden romance that doesn’t overwhelm the main plot. 😀

  5. Such an interesting topic. And yes I toss around the phrase me book too and I’ve never really defined just what that is. I don’t think it has to do with the characters at all for me, it is more the setting. I love books about secrets and hidden pasts and books with boarding school settings or ballet settings and parallel universes and books that are dark and twisty. So I guess when I say a me book; I’ve a large range to choose from!

    • Stormy

      It’s so interesting to see how everyone classifies their “me’!” books. I think you’re the first person who’s said setting is important, though–and it does sound like you’ve got a wide range there!

  6. Cait

    I love this discussion SO SO MUCH! AHHHH. Okay, so yes, I look at books and think “Yes this is a ME book and I will love this.” Sometimes I just know, but unfortunately it works both ways and sometimes I just KNOW I’m not going to love it. *sigh*

    But particularly ME books have been:
    – Basically anything and everything by Neil Gaiman. Like the Graveyard book?!! SERIOUSLY A KID AND GHOSTS AND DEAD PEOPLE?? That’s completely me.
    – Also Good Omens because CROWLEY.
    – I knew 100% that I was going to be in love with all the Stiefvater books the moment I picked up The Scorpio Races.
    – Half Bad is a completely me book. Dark, scary, very unhinged. ME.
    – Same with Holly Black’s creepy faeiries and Cassandra Clare’s sassy shadowhunters. Those are things I always rate a billion stars.

    I LOVE finding “ME!” books. 🙂

    • Stormy

      It sounds like you’re pretty good at picking out ME! books! I think I’m getting better, but there are still surprises in both directions. But there’s no better feeling, reading-wise, I think, then finding a book that just makes you go “this is a total me book!”

  7. I definitely get this… there are some books that sound like “me” books… and sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t. And sometimes you read a book, of course hoping to enjoy it, but end up surprised by just how much! I don’t think I can think of nearly as many “me” books as you have listed, though I know you’ve read more than I have. Hopefully I’ll continue to find more! Also, it was interesting to hear which books were “me” books for you because they seem so different, and yet they all work for you!

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I think I’m often just bad at predicting which books I’ll LOVE before reading. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m better at figuring out if I’ll like a book or not, but loving a book is a whole different story.

  8. Cee

    I am totally that reader who have tossed around that’s such a “ME” book (though it’s more like “that’s totally a Cee book.” ;D)

    A “ME!” book usually contains any of my favorite tropes or themes like found families, heists, thieves, badass heroines, sassy + bickering duos, ot3, wittiness, no romance + others. If they have it or sound like they do, I’m just like GIMMME GIMMMMEEEEE. There’s always the worry that it’ll disappoint, and it’s actually not a ME! book which totally sucks. (and that has happened)

    This really makes me want to write my own “ME!” book post.

    • Stormy

      I think part of the reason it’s so difficult to predict is we all have different things that make a “ME!” book. Like you, I think when I talk about “Me” books I tend to focus on favorite tropes or themes–not necessarily plot(though in can be)–but plot devices found throughout stories, or character or tones. Whereas for some people, the “me” books are one that evoke a certain feeling or tell the story in a certain way.

  9. Whoa, this completely shocks me. After all your raving about I’ll Give You The Sun, I can’t believe it didn’t make your “Me!” book list.

    I’m still not entirely sure how to classify my own “Me!” books, but I guess it’s probably a book that makes me feel everything, that causes me to walk around in a book coma for days, and that stays with me long after I’ve finished reading. Or maybe it’s a book that I read again and again? Okay, yeah, I need to think on this some more.

    • Stormy

      I think it’s because the definitions are so personal–like not even the criteria, but just the definition of a “Me” book–that it’s hard to find that transfer from person to person. For example, in your definition of a “me” book, I’ll Give You the Sun is definitely a “ME!” book for me. It is way high up there on the list because it did all those things. But when I think of “ME” books I tend to think of tone, plot devices, and characters more than the effect is actually has on me. I loved IGYTS, but I did so despite *normally* not liking some of the things present. Like, normally, the relationship between Jude and Oscar was developed in a way I wouldn’t like, but because Jandy Nelson is such a good writer she got me to believe in it.

        • Stormy

          Ha, I mean I think your definition is a good one! It’s just not what I immediately think of. It’s a term I see used so often but everyone has their own definition & things that make them think a book will be a “me” book for them.

  10. It’s hard for me to classify “me” books because, really, any book that I love with all of my heart is a “me” book. But, I suppose my “me” books would be Throne of Glass, The Raven Cycle, and A Darker Shade of Magic. I say Throne of Glass because of the absolutely BA main character who is also female and just kicks ass all over the place, and I absolutely adored that. I want more of it. I instantly loved ToG. 😛 The Raven Cycle is a “me” book because 1) it’s Maggie Stiefvater, and 2) LGBTQ couple. I’m 100% there for both of those, ha. And A Darker Shade of Magic is a “me” book for all of the reasons you listed! I love that V. Schwab’s books don’t have an overabundance of romance in them and focus on characters and their complicated relationships. LOVE it.

    Okay that was kind of long, but this is a great post!

    • Stormy

      I think it’s hard for me to say that series are “me!” books, because I often have such differing opinions on each one. Like, I love The Raven Cycle, BUT while I love TRB and BLLB, I only like The Dream Thieves. It’s so good, but for me it’s the weakest of the three books(which I know is an unpopular opinion). I was pretty sure ADSOM would be a me book as soon as I heard about it, and I was right!

  11. Erin @ The Hardcover Lover

    I don’t really know if I call certain books “me” books before I read them, but I definitely gravitate towards books about similar things. For instance, I’m a sucker for books about depression, anxiety, or suicide, but I don’t really know why. I think I just love powerful stories.

    I’m also figuring out that retellings have been appealing to me, so I’m starting to look into more of them, whether they be contemporary retellings or fantasy/science fiction, etc.

    • Stormy

      Yeah, I definitely gravitate towards certain topics too–and I think sometimes I get confused and call THOSE the “me” books when they really haven’t proven themselves yet.

  12. I definitely have books that I classify as “me” books. And sometimes I think they are “me” books before I read them, and sometimes after I finished reading them. And sometimes I’m totally wrong. I think a book is exactly my kind of book, and then I read it and discover I’m wrong. And the opposite can happen too.

    My review today is for a book that I totally thought was a me book, but after reading it, I absolutely disliked it. I don’t think we can ever know for sure until we read the book. I think I know myself really well, especially when it comes to the books I enjoy the most. A lot of times what ends up being a me book has to do with tone, and the actually characters. Rarely does it have to do with the plot, and I think tone and characters are hard to accurately represent in a book blurb.

    • Stormy

      The point about tones and characters is interesting–I think that’s mostly true for me, though there are a few plot devices that immediately make me pay attention–time travel, parallel realities, etc. Looking back over the books I pointed out as “ME” books in this post made me realize tone is pretty important to me too–I would say at least 75% of the books I picked for today’s posts are there because of tone and voice.

  13. Agreed. Two of the most ‘ME’ books I can think of are Catch 22 and American Gods – both very different books, with very different plots and very different writing styles but undeniably very me.

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