Beth's Reviews > Violence 101

Violence 101 by Denis  Wright
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's review
Mar 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: january-2012, 2012-reads, a-specific-taste, fantastic-characters, hell-yes, like-magic
Read from January 27 to 28, 2012

First 3/4: 4.5-5 stars
Last 1/4: 3.5 stars

Few books have left me feeling quite so divided as "Violence 101." For the first 100ish pages of this short, gripping novel, I was sucked in by Hamish Graham's chilly, compelling and utterly unique voice. I would still urge anyone who loves their YA with a little edge or spice to read this, because it's a magical book about a teenage sociopath. Hamish is no abused boy from a broken home: he's simply a super smart boy from a good, middle-class home who does very violent things for what are utterly logical, reasonable and terrifying reasons. He is unclouded by emotion or doubt; he's one of those very frightening characters who wouldn't cut someone open because they got off on it, but just to see what would happen. Hamish's deeds, horrific though they are, are given a simply brilliant spin by Wright. Hamish is unapologetic, brutal and I just loved it. I'd also be lying if I said a little part of me didn't love Hamish, too. This is simply a writer and reader's joy to read: a triumph of dark imagination, a perfectly-realised, realistic and gripping voice. There is a certain grim fascination to be had with Hamish's violent behaviour, too. They are incredibly creative and very darkly funny. I found myself laughing out loud at certain parts, and then flipping the pages, wide-eyed and horrified.

But that hits on what is good about "Violence 101": the character study. I love wild twists and turns, but when Hamish ran away from the New Horizons institution (where he is being kept for his brutal crimes), it is interestingly unrestrained by the rules that might keep other YA writers, but it loses focus on the most fascinating aspect of the novel - Hamish - and, despite his momentous development near the end, it all feels a little half-baked and glossed over and, yep, even though Hamish spells out for us that this is not a neat-bow ending, it still feels a little easy. There is a lack of direct dialogue between Hamish and an important character, Trev; while I generally thought the first- and third-person POVs were excellently balanced, creating a really superb ambiguity for the first half of the book (is Hamish really manipulating everyone? Could he even be manipulating the audience? dun dun dun), in the second half of the novel, third-person POV becomes too dominant, which causes Hamish's epiphanies to feel forced and sudden. Also, what dialogue there is feels stagey and unrealistic, especially between the fitness teacher and Victor. There is also a lack of any kind of description or scene-setting, which makes the sudden change in tone even more jarring.

However, this is a brilliant YA book, full of dark humour and with one of the best main characters I've ever read, behind which a black heart beats occasionally.

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Reading Progress

01/27/2012 page 165

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