Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Haters by Jesse Andrews || Book Review

Title: The Haters
Author: Jesse Andrews
Release Date: April 2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Source: Review copy from the publisher

Wes and Corey are convinced nothing cool can come of their lame summer at jazz camp, when along comes Ash - all blonde hair and brash words - and cracks their world wide open. Finally, something they can't seem to hate. When Ash convinces them that a great musician is made on the road, the three friends flee camp and begin an epic, hilarious road trip: The Haters 2016 Summer of Hate Tour.

Amid sneaking into seedy bars, evading their parents and the police, and spending every minute together in a makeshift tour bus, romance blossoms and bursts, and hygiene takes a back seat. Wes begins to realise the limitations of hating everything: it keeps you at a convenient distance from something, or someone, you just might love.

When you find something to hate about every band, how do you make a sound you love?

I've spent a long time thinking about how best to describe how much I wished I could've joined Wes, Corey and Ash on their seriously epic, potentially illegal, unhygienic, good-music-filled road trip. But I've come up blank every time. Basically, I wish I'd been there. Reading a novel is one thing, but wanting so badly for it to be real is something that only a few authors seem to manage.

I loved Jesse Andrews' writing since I first started Me, Earl and the Dying Girl and it's continued all the way through The Haters. Andrews has an insane ability to craft characters, rather than simply write about them. And while, so far, none of the characters are people I would actually particularly want to be friends with, it felt like I'd spent a whole life getting to know them. Even though it was actually just 325 pages. I loved them, hated them, wanted to hug them, and wanted to lock them in a dark room until they saw sense, but ultimately, Ash, Wes and Corey felt like three of my closest friends. 

Considering the concept of this book - 'escaping' jazz camp to play gigs in possibly flea-ridden pubs and travelling the country in a beat-up car - and it's implausibility (the far-fetched plot line didn't escape me...) Andrews manages a convincing story. By not even half way through, I was convinced I could just take off and it'd all work out (this was only part way through, no spoilers on whether it really did work out). 

Ash was probably the character that confused me the most. She was irrational, out of control, and seemed to have no real idea about boundaries or consequences. Which is all fine, but at times it felt a bit...well, over done. There were times where the way she had been written just frustrated me. I struggled to relate in any way and, considering we are supposedly of similar ages, I expected to see at least a tiny bit of her logic. It felt like a man writing about a teenage girl who's angry at life, but I wanted Ash to be more than that. I had a lot of empathy for her, but I couldn't find anything about her to relate to and I feel that this could be off-putting to some readers.

Ultimately, this is a book I wish I could slip into everyone's hands and make sure they read it. It's funny and frustrating and full of life. Andrews manages to combine so much into less than 400 pages without a wasted word or misstep. I'm impressed and, no doubt, so will you.