The Haters by Jesse Andrews

The HatersFrom 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.*

I wish there was a half-star option on Goodreads because I would probably rate this at 3.5 stars rather than just 3. If you are a fan of ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL then you should definitely read this book because it employs much of the same humor (the kind of juvenile humor you would expect from teenage boys) and the male characters are very similar to the ones in the author’s debut novel, at least toward the beginning.

If you weren’t a fan of ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL (and to be perfectly honest it wasn’t entirely up my alley), then I still think you would enjoy this book. The storyline is unique and honestly more believable than I thought it would be based on the synopsis, the characters’ personal journeys are fun to follow, and there is, of course, a heavy emphasis on music. So if you enjoy music (particularly jazz), rebellious road trips, and emotional growth in teens then you won’t want to miss this book.

Jesse Andrews is a pro at stream-of-consciousness narration, placing the reader directly inside the head of the protagonist. This makes for really fascinating storytelling (it would have been even more interesting to me when I was in high school because sometimes teenage boys’ minds just seem like a mystery), but it also limits the story in a sense. There were issues of socioeconomic status brought up, but these issues were never really dealt with. They were just brought up as a facet of the characters’ lives and then the main story carried on. Perhaps this is a reflection of how teenagers deal with serious issues–either they ignore them or they just don’t seem like a big enough part of who a person is to waste time talking about it.

Andrews is also very adept at creating ridiculous but somehow still useful similes. They’re both good for a laugh and as a descriptive measure, forcing the reader to use their imagination a little bit. There is not an overwhelming amount of description, though, as it is more dialogue and internal thought process than traditional storytelling. About half of the dialogue is even written in the format of a play, so the character’s tone of voice is often given through stage directions or not at all. This really serves to quicken the pace of the story. I read it in one long weekend (thank you, Easter break). The fourth wall is nonexistent; Wes frequently speaks to the audience in his narration.

It’s really refreshing that the characters are not carrying their phones on them for the majority of the story, but it also gets a little frustrating at times and makes me thankful for the technology we have today! I like to think that I would fare relatively well with a regular old-fashioned street map, but I’m also really glad that I don’t need to find out for sure. The strong female character was refreshing as well because in a book involving a male protagonist and his best friend, it could be easy for the female character to fall into the background or fit certain stereotypes. Ash definitely did none of those things and was a really dynamic character. Her presence is actually what served to push the story along most of the time, and I was always interested in learning more about her.

The ending was much more realistic than I was expecting it to be. I was glad that they didn’t get a cheesy “happily ever after” and that there were actually consequences for the things they did rather than having everything neatly swept under the rug and forgotten about.

The one thing about this book that honestly almost caused me to stop reading the rest of it was the joke about a suicide bomb in an airport. While I know this was written well before what happened in Brussels, it just seems like a very insensitive joke to make in today’s world. I honestly hope that the editors pull that before publication because it is extremely cringe-worthy and very nearly made me mark this book DNF.

*Cover image and synopsis are from Amazon.com. I received a free advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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