Even Stevens’s #CBR5 Review #3: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

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This review should be much easier to write than my last for one simple reason: I hated this book. Absolutely loathed it.  First, let’s deal with the plot (or should I say “plot”). Also, please be warned that I’m about to curse a lot, because seriously fuck this book.

This is How You Lose Her is a collection of short stories revolving around Yunior (except, inexplicably, one story involving a woman named Yasmeen who has absolutely no connection to any other character). Yunior is a young Dominican man living in New York City and he opens by defensively telling us he’s really not a bad guy, he’s just misunderstood.  The stories that follow revolve around the relationships he has with the women in his life, which seem to be mostly negative.  There isn’t a woman he dates that Yunior doesn’t cheat on, sometimes spectacularly – he cheats on one girlfriend with 50 girls, and yet he insists that he’s a decent guy. Basically what I gathered is that this book is about what a dick Yunior is, and how in denial he is about that fact that he is a total dick.

I know a lot of people love this one, and it won the Pulitzer (which is becoming increasingly meaningless to me as I hated the last Pulitzer winner I read, too. I’m looking at you A Visit from the Goon Squad), but hear me out. People read books for many reasons, and my primary reason is escapism. This takes many forms for me and I enjoy a variety of different genres, settings, and characters but one thing that I absolutely need is a character to sympathize with or root for.  I work in a field that deals with the particularly nasty side of humanity and if I want to see assholes being assholes, all I have to do is go to work, I don’t need it in my literature.  It’s the reason I can’t stand stupid Holden Caulfield and his privileged whining, and it’s the reason I hated this book.  Yunior is a little shit, selfish and manipulative and needy, constantly causing hurt to those around him.  If there were a side character to mitigate his behavior I might have enjoyed it more, but the women in this book are laughably one dimensional and the other guys we are introduced to are at least on the same level as Yunior with their ass-hattery, sometimes even beyond him.  This book also follows Yunior a bit later into his life, in his 30s and 40s and guess what? Dude still hasn’t learned his damn lesson and then whines because he’s lonely and unsuccessful. WHOSE FAULT IS THAT, YUNIOR? I just can’t with him.

I could say more, but it’s probably best for my sanity and blood pressure if I stop my ranting there. If I could negatively star this book, I totally would.

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9 thoughts on “Even Stevens’s #CBR5 Review #3: This is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

  1. Interesting. I’ve had this on my list for a while. I read and really enjoyed the first book — filled with geeky references to stuff like Watchmen and Star Wars and still had a lot of heart. And taught a lot of history, as I knew nothing about some of the horrible things that had happened in the DR over the years. BUT, I could totally see that having Yunior as the main character could be an issue, so now I’m not in a hurry to get to this. Maybe if my book club picks it…
    Also, I couldn’t stand Good Squad either. Overrated pile of yuck.

  2. I think by reading this like a novel instead of a self-exploratory memoir (which is what it really is), you missed a lot of what Junot was trying to say here. Of course, it helps if you know some of Junot’s history (and if you’ve read “Oscar Wao”). But I totally understand where you’re coming from. It took me a long while to digest what Junot was attempting with this book, and I was ready to put it down half-way thru in disgust too, but I forced myself to finish it in view of what I suspected might be going on. He’s not easy to read, for sure, and experimental in his style. Check out my review in CBR4, if you’re interested in my thoughts on the book, for what they’re worth. I agree with you on Pullitzer issue, though. Thanks for that.

  3. Since you describe part of the reasons you read books, I understand your hate for this particular book. I view it as a glimpse into another culture and the Oscar Wao book might give you historical data for Yunior’s behavior.

  4. I hated this book as well, however, it didn’t win the Pulitzer (Oscar Wao did). And, it’s a Visit from the GooN Squad.

  5. You pretty much echoed my thoughts exactly; if our “worst of” lists were expanded to 5-10 books, this probably would’ve made mine as well. I wanted to nut punch every last male character in it.

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