Nomes's Reviews > Violence 101

Violence 101 by Denis  Wright
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Confession: I would not normally be drawn to a book with this title/cover. So when it rocked up I wasn't too sure it would be my thing.

But, mate: it was insanely compelling, fascinating and just, ugh, I LOVED it.

I read it within two sittings.

It is a New Zealand YA book ~ released in NZ in 2007, and just now released in Australia.

It's the story of one fourteen year old New Zealand boy ~ who is transferred to yet another juvenile detention centre.

He's not a troubled kid with a sad past. He's a mini genius from a good home. A very violent mini genius. Being in his head is completely riveting: from the way he thinks to the things he loves and admires and seeing why he did some of the outrageous and horrifying things he did.

He is the sort of kid that could grow up to be Dexter (from Jeff Lindsay's books, now made into a TV show).

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It was amusing. Okay, and a tad horrifying...
I read it wide-eyed, smirking in parts, stunned in others.

Hamish relates his story in journal entries, and he's a precocious, intelligent little thing ~ there's a great sense of humour in there. Smattered among the journal entries is a present day narrative which includes staff meetings (from an omnipresent POV) and Hamish's life unfolding in the correctional facility. The staff so amused me. The author is a high school teacher, and he nails that dynamic of different staff members grating against one another with differing strong opinions. Funny stuff, hey.

As the story unfolds, Hamish relates different violent episodes from his childhood and each one is equal parts horrifying and intriguing, but above all, original. I don't want to give away spoilers, but some of the acts he did ~ whoa, they were creative and stunning and intelligent. Also, completely mad, yet utterly logical to him.

He's not formally diagnosed in the book, but he's some kind of sociopathic genius. He has delusions of grandeur and a strong sense of honour and justice. He sees the world differently to the rest of us.

There's clues along the way and a perfectly paced unveiling of some of Hamish's crimes ~ which include his most famous crime: manslaughter at the age of ten. As the story hurtles along I kept wondering where it was headed and there's a sense that anything could happen, an undercurrent of dread and suspense.

So... the climax. It was a bit wild (okay, I chuckled a little, incredulously). It made for some great drama and I loved the direction the story took ~ but (sorry to be cryptic) when a certain character appeared, I found it a little incredulous and dramatic for my tastes. It still didn't stop me from enjoying it though.

It's well written and compelling and I am thrilled this book has been imported from New Zealand with and Aussie publisher. It is also available internationally. It's a fascinating and strong addition to the New Zealand YA scene.

I absolutely recommend this book: To anyone who is fascinated by psychology and the human mind, to reluctant readers, and especially boys. Even though it is YA, it is a book that will easily be appreciated and enjoyed by adults (my husbands got it on his bedside table to read next).

Bonus stuff:
Hamish has heroes who he aims to live up to. He's obsessed with them: Alexander the Great, Sir Robert Falcon Scott (Scottish explorer), prison escape artists, Joan of Arc, Hitler gets a mention, Charles Upham, Te Rauparaha (New Zealand warrior) and other historically fascinating characters are sprinkled throughout the book. It's like little pockets of intrigue weaved into the story ~ like reading the engrossing stuff out of a Guiness Book of Records ~ it's an engrossing look at some violent and impressive heroes from the past.

At 174 pages, Violence 101 packs a lot of punch. I devoured it and so enjoyed it. It's a perfect length for a riveting story.

Quote: He (Alexander the Great) was probably responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths, some historians say 750, 000. And how is he remembered today? Alexander the Brutal? Alexander the Freak? Alexander the Sadistic Psycho? No way - he is simply referred to as Alexander the Great. How do you think he would get on today? I think he'd get a hard time like me, and be regarded as a dangerous lunatic.
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Comments (showing 1-9 of 9) (9 new)

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message 1: by Morgan (new)

Morgan F Whoa. You make this book sound awesome. Its something I need to look out for.

message 2: by Arlene (new)

Arlene Sounds like my kind of twisted. Why don’t we get these books in the US?? Great review!

message 3: by Nomes (last edited Mar 13, 2011 06:31PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nomes it was awesome1 i couldn't put it down and now my husbands reading it :) i was a little shocked actually, just how much i loved it :D

message 4: by Morgan (new)

Morgan F I'm jealous of people who live in Australia and New Zealand. They get all the best and most unique YA fiction!

message 5: by Flannery (new)

Flannery I want this!

message 6: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic Morgan wrote: "I'm jealous of people who live in Australia and New Zealand. They get all the best and most unique YA fiction!"

That is because we get hardly any book published so they have to be good!

message 7: by Nic (new) - added it

Nic Nomes, great review. I love that this book is edgy and unique :)

message 8: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica I have to agree with Morgan, this sounds really awesome!

Saskia Largent I recently finished this one and loved it too - it's so psychological yet at times so simple. Fantastic review Nomes! :)

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