Someone Like Me is everything readers have come to expect from M. R. Carey if you aren’t constantly expecting The Girl with All the Gifts. It is like asking Travis to make The Man Who repeatedly or The Beatles to stay a boy band, stuck in A Hard Day’s Night (If I have to link The Beatles or A Hard Day’s Night you are just doing life wrong).
Structurally Carey is brilliant at crafting narratives that lead readers on unknown paths of suspense that you can’t put down. Until bringing it all together to a big reveal and often a conclusion that A) doesn’t give the obvious answers, leaving them up for interpretation and/or B) isn’t the fairy tale ending readers root for and expect. It is gutsy writing that should be applauded, not criticized. We have become placated by books that mostly, not always, are wrapped in a tidy bow. Carey does not conform to such rules. Of course, this structure makes his books incredibly hard to review in depth without spoilers. So, this will be vague in plot details, unfortunately.
Not only didn’t Carey play it safe by continuously repeating The Girl with All the Gifts, he has added further dimension to his work without losing the narrative structures that keep you in the fetal position dying for more. Fellside and Someone Like Me have interwoven the structures and craft he excels at with social issues. Fellside tackled the dangerous domino effect of drug addiction, toxic relationships, the deplorable conditions of incarceration facilities and redemption.
Someone Like Me does not disappoint, falter or back back down from these trends. Hitting on the state of support systems (both medical and social), and/or lack thereof, for those who feel they might be dealing with a mental illness, spousal abuse and the mechanisms we find to cope with the hand life deals us.
All of Carey’s books pull on character development. Without fail, character arcs are essential to all of Carey’s books. Where characters start is never where they end and while you usually root for their happily ever ending, you might not always get it. Life isn’t a magical place with clear cut answers and thirty-minute sitcom endings. However, depth and breadth of growth will always be demonstrated. The world is a deeply complicated unyielding place that owes us nothing and aren’t we all deeply complicated people with amazingly good and flawed traits?
If you sat down with someone watching Game of Thrones for the first time and after the second episode said, Jamie Lannister is my favorite character, they would have you committed. His character arc is a master class on how people grow, not in a straight line but in a flawed spirally zig-zag that continuously aims for redemption but struggles, without giving up along the way. Two steps forward, one step back. Just when you think it can’t get better? Carey tells George R.R. Martin… wait, hold my wine.
Owning your truth, your circumstances and stepping up and saying this is who, what and where I am in the world is the only way to truly move forward and be at peace. Even if it isn’t the peace others wanted for you. Carey has mastered the art of keeping to that reality where many authors would rather provide the happy ending that doesn’t keep true to their characters or the life they have lived. Love it or hate it. This is how art imitates true life. We rarely get a perfect ending, but we often get situations that have good and bad at the end of the day and we learn to adjust. That is real. Why shouldn’t more stories reflect that reality?
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