It is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I love Australian authors that are more obscure here where I live in the US. I’ve read enough now that IIt is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I love Australian authors that are more obscure here where I live in the US. I’ve read enough now that I’ve even gotten a pretty decent grasp of the terminology for certain things. Like, I know what a punch up is. Or pashing. Or Uni… I suppose it’s pretty self-explanatory, but don’t burst my bubble. I feel like a pro.
When I joined an online book tour for Hate is Such a Strong Word it was because it was an AUS author, and because it was cultural. Not to say that I search out books that are cultural. I generally don’t mind one way or the other but I don’t seek them out. However, when this one was presented to me the fact that it was about a Lebanese teenager struggling with how to be a ‘good Lebanese girl’ living in modern Australia drew me to it. It was about the complexities of dealing with racism, and finding your place in the world when you don’t quite feel like the rest of your family, but you’re too confined and afraid to test the waters outside your inner circle.
I think that this book both succeeded in that, but that at times it also failed. On one hand, there were times when Sophie’s voice made me feel like this was a progressive book, pushing the idea’s of immigration and acceptance and at other times I felt like she consistently took two or three steps backwards. The ideals that Sophie had developed, nearly on her own, were admirable, but her actual character development just wasn’t there… until the ending when it was like a switch was flipped and suddenly she was telling everyone off. I just didn’t feel as though we saw the emotional and mental steps she took to get where she wanted to be.
I also have to mention that I really can’t stand irrational female characters. I have an aversion to exaggerated reactions to situations that I think are more simplified than they’re allowing it to be. Those who have continually been proven to be ‘bad’ or liars should not be trusted. Period. Anything they say should be suspect, and your first reaction shouldn’t be that the world is ending and life as you know it has been destroyed. It should be that you should discuss the problem with the people involved and get to the truth. So, sadly, I wasn’t a huge fan of Sophie’s at all.
I’m going to end on a high note, what I love about reading authors from Australia or the UK, like Hate is Such a Strong Word, is that their ideas of teenage books are more responsible than what I see taking up the shelves of my bookstores. (I’m not saying that there aren’t any US authors who do this. Just that I personally feel they’re are harder to come across.) Instead of having heroines whose existence is defined by the love of a boy and the sacrifices that must be made to be with that boy, they show us how life should really be handled. That it’s okay to put yourself, or your family, or school, ahead of a relationship. It’s alright to choose to go for that year of school abroad and hope that that boy will still be there when you get back. And it’s okay if he’s not. Because the future is a big wide beautiful thing full of amazing surprises. I wish there were more of these books.