Realistic fiction versus fantasy – normally in my book, fantasy wins hands down. But surprisingly, The Haters had me laughing out loud in several times, even in the face of embarrassing situations our characters endure, (and in this world, that is a win in my book).
The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye follows a similar format of fantasy YA – boy and girl must duel to the death, but of course, things get complicated when teen hormones are involved. This book highlights the lives of young enchanters (magicians) Vika, a fiery, confident girl who can freeze opponents in place with her icy powers, and Nikolai, who can see beyond walls and move things with his mind. Both have the power to be the next enchanter for the Tsar of Russia, but only one can carry the magic of the whole kingdom. This book reminded me of The Hunger Games and The Night Circus, so it certainly has mass appeal for teens looking for that next adventurous, magical, romantic read. But it certainly can’t compete with the raw feelings and realistic situations that our teen characters face in The Haters.
Enter The Haters – a bright yellow cover pulls you in, and a cleverly crafted frowny face gets you intrigued. Wes and Corey are best friends who enter jazz camp with a shared appreciation for spending afternoons playing music and learning which musicians to hate on. At jazz camp, they get randomly assigned to what they discover to be the section with the least skilled musicians. They are pretty down about that fact, but then they meet Ash. This chapter is called “Finally a Girl is Spotted”. Let’s just say, they don’t spend that much longer at jazz camp once Ash proposes an adventure.
Let me explain a bit about the formatting of this book – it’s got bits of screenplay dialogue mixed in with lists, faux Wikipedia entries, and funny chapter titles like “How to Trade Your Really Nice But Police-Suspicion-Arousing Car For An Infinitely Less Nice And Come to Think of it Probably Also a Police-Suspicion Arousing Car in Three Easy Steps”. I mean, you want to read that chapter, right?
The Haters does a brilliant job of exploring difficult topics like absent parents, adopted life, sex, masturbation, fighting over a girl, diversity, poverty, failing miserably, drug use, YOU NAME IT, while also managing to elicit laughter. That’s a feat in my book, so The Haters by Jesse Andrews rules this round.
Winner: The Haters by Jesse Andrews