100-Character Breakdown: Funny yet honest, poignant yet relatable, with an original story and writing style.
Genre: Memoir, LGBTQ
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 2015)
There are plenty of memoirs written about the search for love and growing up gay and what it’s like to be a millennial. Ryan O’Connell has a little bit of all those things in I’m Special: And Other Lies We Tell Ourselves. But his memoir is about so much more. He has cerebral palsy, and his depiction of living with it is one of the most dynamic parts of his memoir, with vivid writing that brings out this struggle and enhances the rest of the book. And while he does certainly talk about being gay and being a millennial, his writing is original, fluid, and captivating:
“I’ve dipped my fingers in every cliché twentysomething pot imaginable. Helicopter parents who are obsessed with my every move? Check. A constant need for validation on the Internet? Check. An on-trend addiction to prescription pills? Sadly, check. I dated all the rotten boys, took all the internships that led to nowhere, drank all the wine, and swallowed all the drugs.”
His different personal essays explore his struggle and escape from these clichés, preventing his memoir from becoming a cliché in itself. I’m Special exhibits fantastic progression — even with all of the different topics O’Connell explores, it meshes perfectly. The book is essentially a guide on how to avoid making the mistakes he has made. Although O’Connell has many uncommon struggles, he takes the parts of his life that most readers can relate to and uses them as tools to help create understanding. His writing makes the reader feel close and able to relate to his journey. While at times, the essays do take an emotional and more poignant turn, they are also incredibly funny and enjoyable to read. His honesty is a joy. O’Connell may not think he’s special, but his memoir certainly is.