Title: Hate is Such a Strong Word
Author: Sarah Ayoub
Genre: YA contemporary
Length: 256 pages
Published by: HarperCollins Australia
Sophie Kazzi is in Year 12 at an all-Lebanese, all-Catholic school where she is invisible, uncool and bored out of her brain. While she′s grown up surrounded by Lebanese friends, Lebanese neighbours and Lebanese shops, she knows there′s more to life than Samboosik and Baklawa, and she desperately wants to find it.
Unfortunately, her father has antiquated ideas about women, curfews and the Lebanese ′way′. Bad news for Sophie, who was hoping to spend Year 12 fitting in and having fun – not babysitting her four younger siblings, or studying for final exams that will land her in an Accounting course she has no interest in.
Just when it looks like Sophie′s year couldn′t get any more complicated, Shehadie Goldsmith arrives at school. With an Australian father and a Lebanese mother, he′s even more of a misfit than Sophie. And with his arrogant, questioning attitude, he also has a way of getting under her skin…
But when simmering cultural tensions erupt in violence, Sophie must make a choice that will threaten her family, friends and the cultural ties that have protected her all her life.
A while back on Twitter, I asked people to recommend some awesome diverse books. And this is one of the ones that came up the most often. By an Aussie author and concerning cultural clashes, it’s like the updated version of Looking for Alibrandi, with an element about gender roles that I really loved.
So let’s get my dislikes over and done with.
– The chapter titles. Every. Single. Chapter title was quite angsty and “woe-is-me.” Even if the chapters weren’t like that, those chapter titles really annoyed me.
– Sophie (sometimes). For the most part, Sophie is a fun, thoughtful girl, trying to navigate between two cultures. But occasionally, like the chapter titles, she indulges in self-pity and at times is hypocritical. Where she did shine, for me, was in the later part of the book, where she started contesting some things she didn’t agree with.
– The romance. Honestly it could have done without it. I didn’t care much for it.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the things I did enjoy!
– Let’s talk about racism.
Okay so Australia is pretty multicultural. At my school we have people from dozens of different backgrounds. It’s pretty awesome. But some people don’t think so. In Hate, the Lebanese community is kind of segregated from the “Australian” popularity (I’m putting Australian in inverted commas because really, this country is such a melting pot that everyone is Australian. But for this purpose “Australian” refers to white, Anglo Aussies). Much of the story is rooted in the Cronulla riots, so the story felt very real to me.
Sophie doesn’t feel part of either community, and themes of identity and belonging surround this book (it feels like English class!). I also liked how applicable it was to Aussies in general – there was talk about the HSC, Society and Culture, studying and plans for university.
The family aspect was really well done, I thought. Her parents are so strict, and she resents that. With many of my friends having similar parents, I could understand how frustrated she was, but I could also see the parents’ side of things – her parents are also caught between two cultures, but as well as well, they’re stuck between two times.
All in all, a very good read with family dynamics, gender roles, culture clashes and themes of identity.
Rating: 3.5/5 Wonderkitties