I read this book as part of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2016 #24 Read a Book Where the Main Character Has a Mental Illness.
First off, I’d like to explain that, not knowing what sociopathy is, I chose this book because I believed that it fit into the category of ‘mental illness’. Since reading the novel, I’ve discovered that sociopathy is actually not a treatable ‘illness’ as such but a mental condition that is surprisingly common within the general populace. However, as I still read the book as part of the read harder challenge I’ve decided to review it as part of the mental illness category.
Before I read this book, I knew that I had certain personality traits which made me different to other people. I am very much a loner and really enjoy my own company. I get annoyed by people trying to arrange activities (even just meeting up for a coffee) with me. I have lost countless friends simply because I can’t be bothered to reply to their messages/phone calls. I don’t understand why people think that they “deserve” to have a good life/nice partner/great job etc. and I have no sympathy for them if their life doesn’t play out that way. I was aware that this made me a pretty horrible person sometimes so I learnt to modify my verbal opinions and forced myself to attend social gatherings that I really didn’t want to be at (although once there I could be the life and soul of the party). I would flirt with everyone to amuse myself and found it really easy to get a partner, but once I had them I would quickly get bored and dump them on a whim (then not understand why they would be upset).However, I was also aware that my “cold” personality could be a benefit – I could think clearly in a crisis, I’m extremely low maintenance as a friend/partner, I’m very resilient, I have a massively high pain threshold so even if I’m ill I can just get on with things. I don’t rely on anyone and if someone manages to hold my interest I can be a really loyal friend.
After reading this book, I was convinced that my quirky personality traits made me a sociopath. For that reason alone I think this may be one of the most important books that I’ve ever read. It has quite literally changed the way that I think about my life. It has explained so many things that I always knew were a bit different about me but never really had an explanation for. I’d previously suspected that I might be a ‘bit autistic’ but I was always quite good at talking to strangers, making eye contact, could deal well with large groups of people etc. (I’m aware that I’ve massively stereotyped a couple of autistic traits here but you get the general picture). I’ve also started looking for sociopathic traits in my friends and family (my mum is a definite) which has helped me to assess and understand my relationship with them in a new light. I’m a lot more settled now with my life and in particular my relationship, as I understand that I just don’t have the emotional capacity to fall hopelessly in love. I was always searching for someone to sweep me off my feet but now I know that won’t happen I can stop constantly looking for it. I found that really liberating.
If, unlike me, you are thinking of reading this book despite the fact that you don’t personally identify with the subject matter, I need to point out a few issues. I found it a little hard to follow because it is not written in a linear fashion (I seem to be saying this a lot. Is it just me?) and I was hoping for some shocking or juicy stories about how the author had, I don’t know, destroyed someone’s life but unfortunately I felt they (understandably) were trying to protect their identity too much to get specific details. I also found that the mix of theory in with the personal account was a little bit clumsy at times and could be a bit dry.
Overall, I found this book really hard to review because I found it gave me such an insight into my own life, but on the other hand it wasn’t the most engaging read. For anyone specifically looking to further their knowledge of socipopathy from a personal perspective I would recommend it but for anyone with less than a passing interest I don’t think there is enough to keep the average reader engaged.
as a general interest novel 6/10.
as a book that may change your life if you think you’re a bit weird 10/10.