Review: The Thing Is by Andrew Carter

It is not very often that I distinguish a book as being ideal for a particular gender, but The Thing Is by Andrew Carter is definitely, in my opinion, written with a male perspective in mind.  That’s not to say that it was not an enjoyable read but, as a female, I want to be honest and say I struggled to relate.

The Thing Is by Andrew Carter is a memoir about growing up in t he 80's.

The Thing Is: The Story

When I initially heard about The Thing Is I was intrigued.  After reading the blurb on the back of the book I believed I would be reading a travel memoir from someone that had experienced an array of different cultures and survived the normal mayhem that is often created when a group goes travelling together.

“…his travelling tales from Asia, Australia and South America have shades of Bill Bryson about them.”

The story starts back in 2006 when Andrew was travelling around Brazil.  We read about how he got so drunk the night before his flight home that he accidentally threw his passport away in a pair of wine-stained shorts but didn’t realise until he was at the airport trying to check-in.  Rushing back to the hostel in Rio, he just manages to retrieve them before their fate of laying forevermore in a Brazilian landfill was realised.  However, it resulted in missing his flight so, as a last resort, he had to contact his parents for help.  Unfortunately, while sending a pledging email home he notices a new email from a girl he had a ‘fleeting fling’ within Bolivia announcing she was pregnant.

At this point, I was expecting Andrew to dive into his travelling escapades but instead, we go back even further in time to when he started primary school.  For the next 150 pages, I read about his childhood antics – which mainly involved spending his school years getting drunk before apparently finding the benefits of getting high.

As school finishes, Andrew heads out of his first boy’s holiday to Newquay where he spends his days trying to speak confidently to girls on the beach before spending his nights in town getting drunk.  Andrew then goes on to reflect on his travels to both Malia and Kavos on 18-30 holidays where once again drink and drugs feature heavily, along with with a side helping of stealing and a night in prison.

When we eventually get to Andrew’s gap year we have already had quite a trip, literally and then it continues some more.  We read about how Andrew and his mates get drunk in Bangkok, Koh Samed where ‘the beaches were stunning’ and Koh Chang before moving on to an ‘ugly city centre…juxtaposed with the beautiful shoreline’ in Cambodia (Sihanoukville), Phnom Penh, Angkor Wat and Vang Vien in Laos.  In each new location this theme is similar – how much alcohol can be consumed in each new place visited?

I also get to read about drinking magic mushroom shakes and full moon parties before the group finally heads off to Bali.  Here a couple of the group, including Andrew, does climb Kintamani volcano and reflecting on the trip to date they do have a discussion about how they should be mixing more with locals, learning more about different cultures and taking in well-known places including the many temples of South East Asia.  This, however, didn’t last for long, and the usual trend of drinking too many returns.

Surely their livers were crying out for the trip to end.

Why I think others should read The Thing Is

I will be truthful and say I feel that this is written with a certain audience in mind.  It would be wrong for me to say I disliked the book but I struggled with the near-constant reference to drug-taking and getting so drunk that half of his early life was foggy with him being in an almost continuous hung-over state.

I am sure lads of a certain age will love this book.  It is a book that probably represents many teenagers’ life.  I think back to my own school years and can imagine many of the lads there would be able to read this and relate to everything Andrew does. 

I actually think that this Amazon review sums up the book quite nicely:

“If you were born in the 80s and fancy a couple of hours of amusing nostalgia to remind you about the perils of growing up – clubbing, uni life, gap year, relationships, scrapes, and mistakes, then coming through and meeting the ‘one’ – buy this”. (Dave Meggison)

Have you read The Thing Is? Did you feel the same? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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