Imagine that you and your best friend were stuck at high school jazz camp with a bunch of other guys but then met a hot girl who decided the three of you could form a band and go on the road, playing your music in bars. What could possibly go wrong?
Jazz camp was mostly dudes. It was just a scene of way too many dudes.—The Haters by Jesse Andrew (Abrams/Amulet, 2016, p. 1)
Corey and I were in Shippensburg University Memorial Auditorium for orientation, and it was dudes as far as the eye could see. Dudes were trying with all their might to be mellow and cool. . . .
- Setting: modern times; life on the road, the U.S. South
- Circumstances: After only one day, Wes and Corey have decided that jazz camp isn't for them, so they're grateful when Ash, one of the few girls, asks them if they want to jam with her. Convinced they're a trio made in heaven, the boys agree to Ash's scheme to ditch camp and head south, looking for bars to play in and soaking in the romance of being a band on the road. It doesn't hurt that both Wes and Corey think Ash is one of the coolest girls they've ever met. Plus, Ash has a car and seemingly endless money. The trip, of course, is nothing at all what they imagined it would be.
- Characters: Wes, an electric bass player whose adoptive parents give him lots of leeway; Corey, a drummer whose parents are overprotective; Ash, a guitar player whose divorced mega-rich parents barely pay attention to her; people they meet on the road
- Themes: friendship, first love/sex, coming of age, self-discovery, facing the consequences of one's actions, parenting, music
- Genre: contemporary young adult fiction
- General thoughts: Although I am/was nothing like any of the characters, I really enjoyed their story. Wes, Corey, and Ash are basically good kids who are at that age at which they don't quite understand they're not yet adults. Each has a unique personality and is dealing with different family and personal issues, but in many ways, they're all very typical teens. I particularly liked Wes, who is the book's narrator. What happens to the trio on the road is sometimes funny, sometimes cringe worthy, and sometimes disturbing but is all pretty much believable.
- Thoughts on the music: I loved all the references to songs and bands throughout the book: jazz, rock, rap, grunge, pop, blues, and more. No matter what your musical interests, there are sure to be many artists or styles you'll recognize.
- Things to know: Author Jesse Andrews also wrote Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, which was adapted for the movies. Visit The Haters website for a video, a playlist, and the author's tour dates.
- Recommendations: This is a fun and fast read that will strike a chord (ha!) with many readers. This is more of a coming-of-age story than it is a typical teen book. There is a bit of romance and sex, but the music, the road trip, and the interpersonal dynamics among the trio are what stand out. I suggest giving the novel a try.
- Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Listening Library; 8 hr, 37 min) was read by Michael Crouch. Crouch's voice fits a teen boy almost perfectly, and his cadences, stresses, and accents brought the dialogue of all the characters to life. This is my first experience with Crouch, and I'm happy to have gotten a chance to hear him. This is a recommended listen.
Thanks to Abrams Books, I'm able to offer one of my readers (with a U.S. mailing address) a copy of Jesse Andrews's The Haters, a fun bumper sticker, and a copy of his Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Yep, one of you can win two books plus some swag. All you have to do to be entered for a chance to win is to fill out the following form. I'll pick a winner using a random number generator on April 20. Once the winner has been confirmed and his or her address has been sent to the publicist, I'll erase all personal information from my computer. Good luck!