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A List of Things That Didn't Kill Me

4.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,055 ratings  ·  197 reviews
How does a good kid overcome a bad childhood? Jason Schmidt's searing debut memoir explores that question with unflinching clarity and wit, in the tradition of Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle.

Jason Schmidt wasn't surprised when he came home one day during his junior year of high school and found his father, Mark, crawling around in a giant pool of blood. Things like that
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Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 6th 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
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Sara Gootblatt Although "A List of Things...." Is officially classified as an young adult book, I would recommend this as a good choice for a book club. How some…moreAlthough "A List of Things...." Is officially classified as an young adult book, I would recommend this as a good choice for a book club. How some survive a very difficult childhood and some flounder for the rest of their lives is excellent material for discussion. Set in a backdrop of the AIDS epidemic in the '80's, adults who remember this time can add to the conversation. For a young person this story is inspirational, for an adult it is a meaty tale,full of psychological questions.(less)

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4.02  · 
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 ·  1,055 ratings  ·  197 reviews


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Rosina Lippi
Nov 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jason was a student in one of my creative writing classes in 1998, and I can say without reservation that he is the most talented undergraduate I ever worked with. I have followed his writing ever since -- through his (now defunct, and much missed) weblog, short stories, a beautifully written novel, and finally this memoir.

There are very basic things children should be able to take for granted, whether rich or poor: food, someplace to sleep, a watchful and nurturing adult. Kids who don't have t
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Sandy
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya, memoir-bio
Jason’s memoir should be titled, A List of Things That Didn’t Put Me behind Bars, because after reading his memoir, Jason should be lucky he didn’t lose it. Jason’s ability to write down his daily life without all the negative emotions and baggage that came trampling along beside him was amazing. His father was candid and perhaps that helped Jason in his ability to tell it truthfully and not bitterly, his memoir was truly an eye-opener. According to his father, Jason was a “by-product of his par ...more
- ̗̀  jess  ̖́-
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, young-adult
A List of Things that Didn't Kill Me is an eye-opening memoir about growing up with an abusive parent, and it's also a story of getting through a rough life, of determination to keep going. Schmidt's story can be brutal at times, but it doesn't read as a series of tragedies. It's admirable how he gets through it and tells his story after the fact, portraying his relationship with his dad and his life as very complex and many-sided.

I like Schmidt's writing style in his prose, but the chapter str
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Fiona
I'm amazed the author made it to adulthood, with a mother who abandoned him to his (initially) closeted father, and the constant parade of drug users, dealers, abusers etc. There is redemption and hope at the end, and I would have liked to have had a little more about how he turned his life around, with the support of a retired principal. This is the most intense 'misery lit' book I've ever read, and I've read a few...
Not sure if I'd recommend it to any of the students at school, or buy it for o
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Stephanie
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Wow. This is a heavy memoir. This kid goes through a hell of a childhood... and keeps on going. Every time I thought, "How did he manage?" I realize, he didn't realize there was any option but to do just that.
I was surprised to find that this book is labeled as young adult. Some of my 8th grade students are excellent readers and more mature than their chronological age, but I'd think twice about putting this story into their hands. Not that it's not a valuable story - it IS - but it's a lot to
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Sarah
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Jason's childhood has everything: abuse and neglect, poverty, a missing parent, drug addiction, inappropriate sexual situations, homosexuality (before it was accepted). In addition, he also had freedom, many pets, and his own brain and thoughts. I can't believe he made it to adulthood. He has a very unique perspective on the "straights" and who he can trust. His story ends around age 20 and I kept searching on the internet - how did the next 20 years go? I'm assuming much better than the first s ...more
Amy
Mar 13, 2015 added it
Shelves: 2015, ya-nonfiction
It seems like Jason Schmidt turned out to be an exceptional human being, but it would be completely understandable if he ended up being a really dour person. His parents split when he was young, and (unconventionally) he ended up with his dad, who was verbally and physically abusive. His mom was completely out of the picture, so when his dad contracted AIDS when Schmidt was in high school, he had to deal with it completely on his own. This meant that, at 15, he was in charge of caring for the pe ...more
Margie
Feb 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Slow going in the beginning but the tension builds as Jason Schmidt relays the story of his years growing up without a mother, under the so-called care of his gay, drug addict father. They moved constantly, not only locally but also out of state at one point. He was exposed to the influence of others like his father so there was little positivity and mostly rootless, aimless behavior. He grew up; he wasn't brought up. The constant verbal and physical abuse he endured from his father resulted in ...more
Karen
Jan 01, 2015 added it
Shelves: for-review, dnf
I made it to page 100 and then gave up.

I might come back to it later.

I do like that the author acknowledges that he is an unreliable narrator at times but then it makes it difficult to understand what is true or not. I did try to approach it as a broader childhood experience rather than specific events. I have many friends who unfortunately had similar experiences growing up.

However, I just couldn't get in to the writing style. There's a story - then we move on. Next story and so on and it fee
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Sheila
Oct 16, 2015 added it
Shelves: memoirs
If I was a cool kid, I'd say memoirs are bae, but I was never cool and I'm not a kid. This perfectly-titled memoir opened my eyes to a part of the country and a part of society that I might pretend to know because of the grunge music that I listened to in college but in actuality know very little about. Since this man is my age, the time frame is the same, but that's pretty much where my knowledge ends. Eye-opening and definitely not for the faint of heart.
Allyson Rourke
Jul 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written testament to human resilience
Debra Dahlgren Rowand
Wow & powerful! This has been on my to-read pile for a couple of years & finally we selected it for our High School Book Club. This is a great memoir and will appeal to anyone who read & liked The Glass Castle or It's Kind of A Funny Story. It's edgy, disturbing at times and eye-opening.....and colored with deadpan humor from the eyes of the author. Again, not for those who only want to read a happy story as this is gritty & real. But such a great tale. Well done Jason Schmidt. Y ...more
Mark Adams
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Unique personal perspective of an author life. Every story, even the untold, are worth writing.
Charity Shumway
Feb 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been struggling with whether I should post about reading this book. I am not ashamed of what I read, but the audience that I have here on my FB is wide, and in turn, so are their views, and what they deem "acceptable". This isn’t for the faint of heart, it’s a heavy read. To some, it could be considered a dark and disturbing book.

In this book that may not be appropriate for all audiences are the following: excessive drugs, sex, animal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abuse, homo
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Ethan Brausen
Oct 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People into deeper topics
Book Review

My Opinion
The nonfiction novel, “A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me” by Jason Schmidt was, surprisingly, very compelling in my eyes. The reason I say I was surprised by being compelled was because the story to me was very dark and disturbing, but exciting at the same time as if it was written by Stephen King. It sure felt like that. But all in all, the book was very, very interesting and I would recommend it to anyone that loves cliff-hanging, captivating, and deep topic books.

Feel
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Stacy Books
Apr 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: trc2015
As an adult reading this book, I generally liked it. As an adult reading this book for a YA review group... not so much. This is a very heavy read, and the author does not sugar coat or gloss over any disturbing details. All aspects of this memoir are graphically descriptive: violence, child and animal abuse, sex, drugs, death. I kept waiting for the the point the author tells us he made it past his extremely troubled childhood and adolescence (clearly since he's published this book), but that d ...more
Uma
Dec 14, 2015 rated it did not like it
I finished reading A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me about three weeks ago and boy was I glad that it was over. As Jason Schmidt recalls his first 20 years of living, the reader is left thinking about how awful his life was. The book leaves you with the message that “you can always change the life you were given” but also with the feeling of regret for reading the novel.
A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me is the life story of Jason Schmidt who talks a lot about his father Mark, who just ha
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Emily Harrington
A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me by Jason Schmidt was an awful book. This book was a memoir, and I don’t normally read these types of books, but I had to read it for school. This is the most boring book I have ever read. It had too many explanations and it never caught my attention for long periods of time.
The book was about Jason the main character and how he grew up in a different kind of life style in the 1970’s. His dad was usually high and never really cared for Jason. Jason kind of jus
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Emilee Cole
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was ok
A List of Things That Didn’t Kill Me by Jason Schmidt is told in the perspective of a growing boy. Jason Schmidt is trying to get the readers to appreciate the things they have in life, because not everyone is fortunate enough to have a safe and stable home with parents who care for them. Jason has to learn how to overcome tough obstacles in his life involving drugs, crimes, poverty, abuse, secrets and social issues. In the book Jason explains his journey to adulthood and the struggles he had to ...more
D.peabody
Dec 29, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: teen
This book is tragic. It is truly awful. Not because it is badly written but because it is a true story. It is a litany of the bad things that happened to Jason Schmidt as he grew up. As I read I was both horrified and fascinated. Fascinated at Jason's responses to the things that happened to him, at the way his mind worked and at the way that people reacted to him as well. I cannot tell you that I liked this book, I did not. As I say the subject matter was the cause. The story itself was very we ...more
Perla The IB Teen Book Blogger
My feelings are so tied into my personal experiences that I feel like talking about myself instead of the book. Gimme a minute and I'll be able to divorce myself from this naked, real, crazy, heartbreaking, fucked up book. Loved it, couldn't put it down.

Sometimes it felt impossible that anyone can have a life like Jason had. But my sheltered and limited upraising must have seemed the stuff of dreams for kids like Jason. I could not walk away from this book, it sucked me in completely. Hard to re
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Pamela
Jul 25, 2016 rated it liked it
Schmidt is a great storyteller, I really enjoyed the way he writes. It's a deep, dark memoir that takes you from disbelief, to pity, to madness.
The author lived a hard life and you want nothing but the best for him. In the final chapter wrap up, I was happy he found his way, however it took a long time to get there.
I wanted to give up on the story halfway through, it just wasn't holding my attention like I had hoped, but I powered through.
The book has short quick chapters, which I like.
Jason
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Rosa
It's been over a month and I'm still periodically thinking about this book. Jason's memoir tells what it was like growing up with a broke, gay dad who ended up being HIV+ in the 70s. It's amazing that the author was able to survive growing up this way and I think it's a testament to what we can endure. I think memoirs like this are important b/c they show teens who are growing up in fucked up situations that others have and that they've survived. I do wish it had provided a bit more background o ...more
ViDesh032201
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A List of Things That Didn't Kill Me is a book that makes me laugh with its unnecessary inappropriate language in the dialogue.This book is about a guys life and what he went through during his life.I like that i can relate to his life as a child because some of the things I can relate to like when he had to give up Charlie his chicken because I had to give up my pets. The plot and the characters are relatable . I don't read books and so me liking this book is actually surprising and so I would ...more
Laure Porché
Oct 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hachette
A very moving book. What I liked the most was the ability of the author to narrate everything without sentimentalism or judgment, but really as the child he was must have experienced it: as facts of life that have to be borne or dealt with. It makes it all the more striking for us, and yet we never feel pity for the hero. The writing binds our heart to his fate in a much more efficient way than if it was actually acknowledging in a dramatic way the hardship Jason endured. A must read.
ChapterOne
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It was a little jolt of shock every time his age was mentioned, because he seemed to be so very young to have gone through pretty much everything mentioned in the book. It's sad and makes you wonder how can things like this be true? I wonder what his father would have thought about the book?
Anne (w/ an E)
May 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I totally agree with Fiona's review and couldn't have said it better myself.
Sally
Jun 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Troubling but well-written memoir. You're rooting for this kid the whole way through, and it's great to know that he came out the other end.
Stacey Conrad
Not my kind of book, but the kids who want to read about how terrible someone else's life was will eat this one up.
lauren
Jun 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great read dealing with Seattle in the 80s, the early days of the AIDS epidemic, and a totally messed up childhood. I definitely recommend it.
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“If what you need, in order to feel good about yourself later on, is to show him some mercy - then show him mercy. If you need to tell him the truth, do that. But try to look at in terms of what you're going to be able to live with ten, twenty years down the line.” 1 likes
“How many little kids were being orphaned or killed, right that minute, while I was sitting there watching TV?” 1 likes
More quotes…