Making the Grade / The Haters

Hello!

Making the GradeTry as I may, a trip to my local library branch almost always means bringing home a stack of new reads. Some say I should express more restraint, particularly when they peek at my four piles of unread books, but I think there’s nothing to lose: the library provides me the opportunity to try out a variety of genres, authors, and series, without fear of emptying my wallet or clogging up my bookshelf. With my April break only a few days away, I’m looking forward to making a good dent in my library check-outs – junior year is not friendly to reading time – but in the meantime, discussing books is just as fun as reading them. What novels are on your nightstand at the moment?

The Haters

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.

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.

In his second novel, Andrews again brings his brilliant and distinctive voice to YA, in the perfect book for music lovers, fans of The Commitments and High Fidelity, or anyone who has ever loved—and hated—a song or a band. This witty, funny coming-of-age novel is contemporary fiction at its best. {Goodreads}

Main Characters: A-
Quirky characters might as well be Jesse Andrews’ speciality. Just as in his bestselling debut, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, his sophomore novel, The Haters, is narrated by a high schooler with a knack for humor: Wes, who, along with his best friend, Corey, and fellow “hater” Ash,  finds himself on the road after ditching jazz camp. As narrator, Wes’ voice is established in a mere matter of pages, and better yet, Andrews maintains it throughout the novel. Flaws exist – Wes’ dirty humor is heavy-handed, it can be difficult to distinguish Wes and Corey from their dialogue alone, and Ash is all too often in the Manic Pixie Dream Girl category – but what Andrews captures well in the protagonists, the uncertainty of adolescence and the excitement of living in the moment, is worth noting.

Supporting Characters: B
Unfortunately, humor can’t carry a story, a fact noticeably pointed out in the development of the supporting cast. One would expect that on such a zany trip, Wes, Corey, and Ash would encounter a number of memorable characters; some are, others, however, less so.  For example, the wife-husband duo that housed the band for a night made me chuckle, but the bartender with a two-faced personality left me confused as to his purpose in the plot. The parent figures also left me less than impressed: Wes’ make little mention until the very end; Corey’s fall victim to the protective mom and dad stereotype, and as the daughter of a billionaire, Ash has a family that’s better left for the book to explain.

Plot: B+
Road trip stories are some of my favorites, not in the least because they are such an iconic plot for authors to explore. While the Haters’ route across the country is certainly an adventure, it felt more like a novel thrown together at last minute than the  amusing romp I was expecting. Motives for moving on to a new location never seem to be more than they were kicked out of yet another restaurant, which could be realistic – we’re talking about inexperienced teenage musicians, after all – were it not used so frequently as a plot device. Furthermore, as funny of an author as Jesse Andrews is, by the middle of the plot, I was still bored; in other words, I was tempted to skim much of the novel.

Writing: A-
I love when an author’s passion seeps through the pages, as is the case here. Whether or not the swearing {it’s heavy} or format {which switches from your typical paragraphs to lines of dialogue without punctuation} is to your liking, you can’t deny that Andrews knows his stuff, nor can you deny the novel’s entertainment merit. One reviewer put it perfectly: “It’s the kind of book that really is just so ridiculous it can be awesome.” Sadly, its potential just isn’t reached to its entirety.

Final Grade: B+
Reviews are subjective, so while The Haters wasn’t my cup of tea, that’s not to say another reader won’t fall in love. It’s for a selective audience: perhaps music experts will appreciate the jazz references and industry jokes, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl enthusiasts will find comfort in Andrews’ writing, or readers in need of a lighthearted novel will enjoy Wes’ narration. Its selectivity, though, is also its downfall, as it’s tough to sell a novel that few will finish and adore. I think I’ll stick to recommending Andrews’ first novel as I await his next release – I still have the film version to watch!

Have a wonderful start to your week! :)

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