Review: “The Haters” by Jesse Andrews

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Synopsis: From Jesse Andrews, author of the New York Times bestselling Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and screenwriter of the Sundance award–winning motion picture of the same name, comes a groundbreaking young adult novel about music, love, friendship, and freedom as three young musicians follow a quest to escape the law long enough to play the amazing show they hope (but also doubt) they have in them.

Inspired by the years he spent playing bass in a band himself, The Haters is Jesse Andrews’s road trip adventure about a trio of jazz-camp escapees who, against every realistic expectation, become a band.

For Wes and his best friend, Corey, jazz camp turns out to be lame. It’s pretty much all dudes talking in Jazz Voice. But then they jam with Ash, a charismatic girl with an unusual sound, and the three just click. It’s three and a half hours of pure musical magic, and Ash makes a decision: They need to hit the road. Because the road, not summer camp, is where bands get good. Before Wes and Corey know it, they’re in Ash’s SUV heading south, and The Haters Summer of Hate Tour has begun.

Review: Unlike like a lot of people who I’ve seen have written a review for this, I haven’t read Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. I’m not sure if this gives me a different perspective or not of the story since I’ve seen so many people comparing the two.

This was a difficult book to get into, between the character introductions that set up me not to like any of the characters (every single person in that jazz camp was annoying), the way some of the descriptions are worded (“Our new friend Adam was almost orgasmically psyched.” Not my style, I guess), and just how ridiculous Wes and Corey act (which I certainly should have expected based on the name of the story). I considered dropping this multiple times before even getting to the fifth chapter. Although I was cringing at these boys talking about harming their dick constantly and rolling my eyes at them complaining about everything, I wanted to get through the book. And in a way, I’m sort of glad I did.

Wes, Corey, and Ash’s constant hating on everything is the worst at the beginning. Somehow I didn’t expect it to be as annoying as it was. I guess I figured that I hated on enough things myself that I would relate, but something about their super negative attitude rubbed me the wrong way. Another thing that struck a chord with me is how vulgar these boys are. The “dick harm” thing they talk about through the whole story was a strange thing to get used to, and the fact that they both try to make moves on Ash so many times is rather disgusting. But I guess it’s still the general assumption that all boys can only think with their dicks, because the vast majority of Wes, Corey, and even a lot of Ash’s jokes were unnecessarily sexual. It wasn’t even good. The humor was so childish and gross that it hurt.

Much of this “tour” the three go on is spent getting into trouble and strange situations. This is expected, and it’s entertaining for the most part. What bugs me isn’t that there is a surprising lack of talk about their own music and playing. What bugs me is that they are more focused on getting gigs than they are on improving their playing and sound. Perhaps this is what happens when three people ages 16 to 19 spontaneously decide to run away from jazz camp and tour down the east coast, but it still bothers me.

So what do they do on this tour if they don’t play more than three shows? They’re busy running from the police, hooking up with people, hooking up with each other, getting drunk, getting stoned, and getting involved with many questionable types of people. Let me remind you, the boys in this story are 16 years old. At least there are significant consequences for each of the three at the end and not everything gets magically cleared up for a “happily ever after” ending.

My biggest pet peeve in this is the grammar and the format of the writing. At least a third of the dialogue was written in lazy script form (which according to my friend who did read MAEATDG, it’s the same in that story.) So it would be like “WES: and then whatever wes has to say but without any capitalization and a total lack of grammar.” And there was nearly a whole chapter where the dialogue was written line by line with absolutely no quotation marks or dialogue tags of any sort, not even at the beginning, so it’s hard to follow. Granted, this is a chapter where Wes, the POV character, is stoned and probably doesn’t have much of an idea what is going on either, but it was frustrating to read. Another thing I don’t understand: Why did most of the questions in this book not end with a question mark. Last time I checked, questions don’t end with a period. Alright, I’ll stop being petty.

Here, I’ll even end on a positive note. By the end of the story, I was starting to relate to Wes. He and his friends go through a lot emotionally on this tour. Near the end when every single thing falls apart right before it gets glued back together for that final bit of hope before the end of the story, Wes goes numb. He starts to think that everyone would be better off without him and that the only person he actually has is himself. He’s been terrible to his best friend, his bandmate just kicked him out to play with someone better, and his parents don’t even act like they care too much most of the time. It’s a very human feeling that many of us know all too well. Although I would have liked to see more, I really appreciate how Wes develops in this story, and as I mentioned before, I also appreciate how the three receive consequences not just from their parents but also legally. It brings this book back down to earth.

Final Thought: I gave this two stars because it’s simply okay. There are definitely parts of the story that I thoroughly enjoyed and found myself hating on less than other parts, but I couldn’t find much that stuck out to me as “great” about this story. I don’t completely hate it (guess I’m not as true a hater as these characters are), but I found little to like. With it being subtly cliche in parts and matching tropes that many realistic fiction YA stories are going through currently, I can see why this would be popular with other people, but The Haters certainly is not my type of story.

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