There are two kinds of easy book reviews, the hard nope and the strong recommendation. This is not one of those reviews. I’m really torn on whether to recommend Come As You Are and spend a lot of text pointing out what I consider flaws, or finding an alternative source with a content more similar to the promising title. I find however, that criticism is easier to accomplish than creative endeavors and thus feel the need to also talk about where this book does well. I took a lot of notes on Come As You Are and they’re a wintry mix of good things and critical ones. There is one note that stuck out and grabbed me on the second reading though.
The main message of this book is supposed to be about feeling normal and loving yourself, and when it focuses on that it’s good.
That’s Come As You Are in a nutshell. Unfortunately, focus seems to be an issue. That’s the tl;dr if you wanna skip the rest of this review. However, if you’re a woman and have ever felt awkward about your own body or felt like you didn’t know as much about yourself as you should—that’s a lot of you if the NYT best seller banner means anything—then you might wanna stick around for a bit.
Let’s get some booky stuff out of the way first, the easier structural things, before we wade into the pool of needful analysis. The prose is sometimes hard to read and feels like a very long reddit post. The text is suffused with isms of the internet and I couldn’t brow beat you for thinking this book was written with large contributions from a Discord group. The author actually tries to discuss ‘the Feels’ in a serious context. This is one of the things that makes the book hard to recommend. I find the read difficult in ways that aren’t related to needing to crack open a dictionary.
There are some fantastic worksheets focused on becoming more familiar with your own sexuality peppered throughout Come As You Are and some of them would even be useful to men. Oh, let’s talk about that. This book is definitely geared towards a female audience. You can tell by the pink cover with the purse on it! Come As You Are spends a lot of time criticizing cultural norms for…a lot, and then turns right around and goes with the brightest most saturated coral pink for its audience and you gotta wonder if that was on purpose or accidentally funny. More about the cover, because I alluded to this in other reviews and there’s one more book in my review pile that suffers from the same issue. Was this book meant to be read in a public place? The cover is so cringe I had a hard time reading it in front of my kids, and I certainly wasn’t going to read it in a coffee shop. That’s one more point for e-readers I guess. I’m going to continue to be a physical paper holdout though. Covers are a pretty minor gripe in the scheme of things, but I have to have fun with things as cringe as this. This is the self-help equivalent of having Fabio on the cover (Your number is next She Comes First). If you want me to take you and this genre seriously you have to show me you take yourself seriously, and putting a purse-vulva on a bright coral pink background ain’t that.
On a more substantial note, there were several times throughout the book where not being the intended audience got in the way of comprehension. Several moments of “Is that what the average woman actually goes through” and “that’s not actually why men do that…at least not this one”. Some things bordered on disbelief but I simply don’t have the female experience to say either way. I was often able to discard those frustrating moments as knowing I wasn’t the intended audience but sometimes it managed to be frustrating as I specifically set out to read this book to assess whether it could help with a frequent problem I’ve encountered over the years. I’ll be talking to my wife, or a friend, and sex will come up and there will be a “how did you not know that about your own body?!” moment. I set out for a book to point those women to and the short descriptions of this book online seemed to tick those boxes, so I picked it up.
As I said before, when it focuses on becoming comfortable with yourself it’s quite good, but it also mixes that with urges to try mindfulness meditation or some really eyebrow raising insistence to accept the health-at-every-size movement. The latter was particularly jarring as the book starts out by insisting it will take a strictly biological look at what is normally viewed culturally. The author insists on using metaphor but she seems to be not so great at it. There’s also some needless injection of politics that may turn some of the demographics that most need this information away from this book.
Reading all of that you may wonder why I am having trouble making a decision on the recommendation. Well that’s simple, the good parts of this book are really good and lack a useful alternative. Understanding the contextualization of sexual stimulus is a thing more people ought to be familiar with, the worksheets contained in the book are really useful, non-concordance is a thing people need to be more aware of, and the basic biology lesson is something I’ve found a lot of women just need and I find it downright tragic they were able to leave high-school without being exposed to it. I currently know of no alternative to get those things in one space that lacks the issues mentioned above. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, I just am not aware of anything that accomplishes the biological information, actionable exercises, and focus on loving who you are physically and mentally the way Come As You Are does. There were times I also really sympathized with the author. I share her frustration about meeting women who had to learn about their anatomy from pornography, for instance.
So I guess what I’m saying is I recommend it, but with lots of asterisks. I’m going to continue looking for better alternatives to this one, but as things stand today, right now, the positives outweigh the negatives. I was intentionally vague in describing what I find to be problems above. As a reminder if you haven’t read one of my reviews before, I try to keep most of the experience of the book contained in the book, at least as far as the hard content goes—I feel I’m robbing you of individual experience otherwise. However, I felt I had to address some of the content of this book as it was central to the objections that muddy the recommendation. I would have loved to write ‘Fantastic book for women having trouble being comfortable with themselves sexually’ without all the caveats, because that’s a recommendation I’d really love to have in my back pocket when I encounter that friend that say, doesn’t use protection during her period because she ‘can’t get pregnant’ then. In that respect I’m definitely still on the lookout.
I am not a paid reviewer. My content comes from me and I was not solicited in any manner for this review. My thoughts and opinions are my own.
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