Haterz

By James Gross

Reviewed by SA

The internet; a place where news pours out in abundance and people around the world are connected 24/7.  Haterz is one of those novels that really captures the internet as a snapshot: everything it is now, full of social media drama, twitter wars, the good, the bad, and the reviled. A place where trolls lurk and haters hate, hate, hate. Haven’t you sometimes wished that they would all go away? That they would get what was coming to them? Then get ready for Haterz, a unique novel you cannot possibly put down, a Dexter for every internet addict.

A Summary from Haterz’s Goodreads page Is there someone online who really grates on you? That friend who’s always bragging about their awesome life and endlessly sharing tired memes, and who just doesn’t get jokes? Look at your Twitter feed: don’t you get cross at the endless rage, the thoughtless bigotry and the pleading for celebrity retweets? Meet Dave, a street fundraiser and fan of cat pictures. He’s decided that unfollowing just isn’t enough. He’s determined to make the internet a nicer place, whatever it takes. When he killed his best friend’s girlfriend, he wasn’t planning on changing the world. She was just really annoying on Facebook. But someone saw, and made him an offer. Someone who knows what he’s capable of, and wants to use him to take control of the darkness at the heart of the internet. And now the bodies  (the comment trolls, the sexual predators, the obnoxious pop stars) are starting to mount up…

Oh yes, there will be murder and mayhem, mark my words for it. I have to put the warning here somewhere: yes, there are parts that are absolutely gruesome. Not for the squeamish or faint of heart either, because, well… they are intense. Alright, warning over, let’s get back to the fun.

We have Dave; chugger by day, common internet user with hacking experience, and suddenly, a murderer too. And now, some mysterious group on the internet wants him to keep the momentum going, and take on a few tasks of their own design. Quickly, Dave is caught up in an enormous internet conspiracy with tendrils that reach who knows where. And would you really call him a serial killer if he’s freeing the world of the people he goes after?

You may already have read (or seen) James’ Gross‘ work: he has written Doctor who and Torchwood novels (and radio plays). This really reflects in Haterz, as it seems almost like a TV show in itself. It is a serial novel (fun for a serial killer!) if you want to call it that, with Dave taking on marks and wrapping up missions in an episodic fashion. The challenges slowly become more elaborate and difficult as it goes on, going from minor murders to more difficult missions (such as public humiliation, shedding the truth, delivering sharp messages to the world/the internet as a whole) as time progresses. Each can almost be read as their own, self contained storyline, with the underlying arc of the plot sweeping silently underneath.

What isn’t there to love about a good murder? About deeply flashed out and thought through plans which could or could not work? There was no predictability in the plot – you never see what’s coming around the next corner or twist. It all ramps up to a fantastically exciting ending, which I would not dare spoil. Call it wish fulfillment, because every mark is so incredibly familiar to internet users, from every corner of this crazy place.  Big internet egos with a huge presence online who you just want gone: you have phony charity runners; the deceitful ebook writers;  dangerous teenage fangirls; bloggers, and pirates, and trolls… A bit of a cathartic experience is you ask me.

As twisted as these missions are, you just can’t help but get attached to Dave and see his point of view. A novel truly for the internet age, Haterz is a unique – and amazingly fun – novel to read. I recommend it to anyone who (like me) spends way too much time on the internet, who loves a good murder, and for whom a creative plan can really get the brain going. And TV adaptation would be quite fun if we ever get to see it!

When Reason Breaks

by Cindy L. Rodriguez

Reviewed by SA

I am always nervous when I pick up YA novels (I say pretty much the same thing every time I start a review of a YA), as it is so hard to find a book that defies formula, breaks into new territory, and rips your heart out. Guess what? When Reason Breaks (Cindy L. Rodriguez) is most definitely a great novel. Plus, it’s a diverse book!

When Reason BreaksTwo sophomore girls come from different worlds. Emily is the sweet, smart daughter of a lawyer/politician father who controls most aspects of her life; she loves her friends Sarah and Abby, and her boyfriend, Kevin. Elizabeth is a dark goth girl whose father has recently run out on, making her the ‘basket case’ of the school, with anger issues and a tendency to draw dark pictures. When their English teacher, Ms. Diaz, places them together in class, they grow together over a love of Emily Dickinson, whose poetry will push them to reconsider many aspects of their lives.

The novel deals with the harsh topics of mental illness and suicide, while drawing parallels between the lives of the two young protagonists and Emily Dickinson herself. It will have your heart racing, your hands stuck to the cover, unable to put the book down.

Full disclosure; for the first half of the novel, I wasn’t convinced about if I liked it or not. I found the protagonists slightly pretentious, slightly predictable, and I felt as if I had seen them before. But as the plot progressed, I realized that the feeling of familiarity came from the fact that I did  know people just like them. I recognized their thoughts and feelings as those I had myself felt, or had experienced second hand as I stood alongside a friend through a tough time.

It was honestly the end of the third act (if you would want to call it that – you’ll know what I mean when you read it yourself) when the book grabbed me. The book begins with a dark chapter, after which the novel then takes you back eight months, to show what series of events has brought them to this point. Just like Ms. Diaz, I made assumptions about this moment; when I saw that I was wrong, my entire perception of the book shifted. My heart raced as I realized… “I am part of the problem,” a scary thought. I suddenly saw the novel in a different light; when I finally finished it, I had to put it down, stare at the ceiling, and think everything over in my head. Just… wow.

But what made it so much more interesting was the introduction of Emily Dickinson as the inspiration for the women. During the course of the book, the protagonist offer different interpretations to some of the most famous poems, making them their own. And after the novel ends, the author offers insight into the life of our favorite lady poet, showing us just how every character reflects part of her past. It’s fantastic how she is able to do this without making the book feel like a perfect replica of Dickinson’s life, or preachy in any way: it’s subtle.

It was an actual emotional roller coaster; it reminded me of Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher), crossed over with The Breakfast Club. I recommend tissues!

When Reason Breaks comes out February 10th.

Oh look, a book trailer!

We Should Hang Out Sometime

By Josh Sundquist

Reviewed by SA

9780316251020_p0_v2_s260x420Next Tuesday, a fantastic new books hits the shelves: We Should Hang Out Sometime’ by Josh Sundquist, a brutally honest look at dating. It’s one of the Advance Reader Copies I was given at BookCon, and I admit that this review was published on my old blog (which no one needs to see.) But seeing as how the wait is finally over, I thought it best to share it with you all here.

The book itself is a memoir of the author’s experiences as a teenager/Young adult, chronicling his attempts (and failures) at finding a girlfriend. According to the author himself, it is a ‘semiscientific, wholly hilarious investigation’ into what went wrong in his pursuits of love. And by semiscientific, he means he forms hypotheses, investigates, tracks those women down, and asks them point blank why it never worked out between them.

I love the scientific approach to understanding where the relationships went wrong, as it ads to the charm of the book.
And there are charts. Very funny, very accurate charts, drawn in sharpie, placed here and there all throughout the novel, giving you insight into the author’s mind and a good laugh (or a sincere awww) in most cases.

The story itself is so brutally honest that I can’t help but feel connected to the life of young Josh, and the challenges he faces trying to find a girlfriend. It’s incredibly engaging. The reader finds themselves relating to his thoughts and feelings as he comes up against the challenges of finding love. The fear of rejection is a poignant reoccurring theme throughout the entire novel, which both holds him back from asking out the women he crushes on and taints his memory of the relationship, which we can se through the hypotheses he forms about why it never worked out between them. “She may have liked me, but…” is a repeated consideration of the author with almost each of the potentials. And it doesn’t help that he does get rejected right off the bat one of the only times he does go for it.

However, with almost every woman, the results of the investigation surprise Josh, and the reader – except in the few cases where the reader can see what young Josh couldn’t, and wants to scream at the page “She’s obviously into you! Go for it!”

The book is an incredibly quick read, both because the author manages to convey some of the key concepts through well thought out charts, and also because the reader just simply wants to know what’s coming next. I sat down and read the book in less three hours, on the bus on the way from BookCon to Philly. It reads like you’re sitting with a friend and he’s telling you his worst dating experiences. It’s engrossing, captivating, grabbing the reader and making them a participant in the investigation. It has some real laugh out loud moments, and I found myself laughing not only because of the absurdity of his predicament, but also because of how much I related to what he was feeling.

But the truth is, the book isn’t just about finding a girlfriend, findingtumblr_mbejmiwQ811qddjxro1_r1_400 love; it’s about our own insecurities, fears, our self esteem. It’s about you. It’s about all of us, because we can all relate to these, even if we aren’t missing a leg. This book isn’t just about finding love in others, but learning to love yourself.

Josh begins the book by stating that the reason behind his investigation, other than curiosity, is to find out what was wrong with him, if it was something like annoying habit, that he could change, or something permanent, that he would just have to live with. Each time, he asks what was wrong with him. And, SPOILER ALERT! Nothing is. The problem is that he believes there is.

Which is why I’d recommend this book to anyone and everyone who’s ever felt that deep set feeling that they’re just not good enough. Everyone can relate to Josh’s struggles. Everyone has felt insecure, for different reasons: maybe we didn’t even realize it at the time.

I really recommend this book. It’s a fantastically fun read that I’d happily share with others, and it offers a fantastic lesson – a truth – without being preachy. It’s one of those books that makes you wish you were friends with the author, so you could call them up and talk to them what you thought.

Random thoughts about the book:

  • Have any of you read An Abundance of Katherines (John Green)? Parts of the book felt a lot like that. Maybe it was the format of “This woman – this experience – This ending”. Maybe it was the theme of teenage love. Or coming of age. So if you like reading John Green, you’ll probably enjoy this novel.
  • After reading the book, I checked out Josh’s youtube channel and realized I recognized him from his “Doctor Who for Math Nerds” video. I watched a few vlogs and was shocked out how his voice is so recognizable from the book. it really is an honest novel, and he’s not trying to be anybody but himself.
  • I’m not a man or an amputee, but I really related to this book. Wowza.
  • We should hang out sometime! is quite accurately the best pickup line. Full disclosure, I’m probably going to use it in my future.

Originally posted on The Adventures of Gap Year Girl, June 2014.