A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Haters by Jesse Andrews (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl) is a raunchy, rock-'n'-roll-road-trip story. Wes, Corey, and Ash escape jazz camp and hit the road, hoping to land some great gigs and be "real" musicians. As they drive around the South, they have some fun and some dangerous adventures. Most of the humor is crass, especially the pages of penis and sex jokes, which is probably a realistic depiction of how bands talk on the road. The kids have long, graphic discussions about sex. The story lightly dips its toe into the waters of race issues. (Wes is Venezuelan, and Ash is Brazilian on her father's side.) The teens get drunk and stoned. The dialogue has lots of frequent swearing and vulgar slang, including "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," "bitch," and "jizz." The characters make questionable decisions throughout the book.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Wes and his friend Corey attend a highly respected jazz camp, only to realize immediately that they hate the camp and most of the other campers. But that's what they do best together: hate everything. They meet a girl named Ash who also feels she doesn't fit in at camp. After what they consider to be an epic, life-changing jam session, the trio decides to run away from camp and hit the road on a music tour. They have fun, fight, make some terrible decisions, face danger, and try to find a good gig that will show the world how great they are. In the process they grow up a little and learn a lot about themselves and each other.
Is it any good?
The band bonding is realistic and heartfelt in this tale that traces the ups and downs of life on the road in a funny, raunchy fashion. The three bandmates' joy in playing music together and creating their own sound makes for exciting reading. We see the good and bad of trying to be creative partners while spending every minute together. The characters see each other at their best and worst and deal with their egos, creative differences, and gross smells. Some of the running dialogue among them is hilarious at first, but as the book progresses, the banter gets old.
Author Jesse Andrews accurately captures the arrogance of youth: The kids hate everything that isn't hip and cool. They do learn lessons about the dangers of such arrogance and that it's OK to admit some things are cool or worthwhile. Even though this is a road trip tale, the story lacks urgency. It meanders along as the kids do, with no real end game in sight. The ultimate messages about responsibility, compromise, and self-reliance are well delivered, but it takes the reader some work to get there.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about pop culture. Why is it cool to hate some things but not others? What is it like to be into songs or shows that are cool but eventually fall out of fashion?
What do you think of the amount of sex and swearing in The Haters? Does it seem like a realistic portrayal of how teens talk and interact?
The teens in The Haters leave their phones behind when they embark on their trip, and it's extremely hard for a few of them. Do you find yourself automatically grabbing for your phone even if you don't really need to use it? Is it an ingrained habit? Do you take breaks from using or looking at your phone?
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