Confessions of a Hater
Caprice Crane has written several light novels for women (a genre often dismissively called “chick lit”), including Forget About It and Family Affair. I tried a couple of her previous books, and although the premises were intriguing, I didn’t care enough about the characters or what happened to finish any of them. Confessions of a Hater was different.
It’s a Young Adult book, to start, with the classic plot of “geek girl finds way to be popular at a new school, discovers it’s not all it’s cracked up to be”. In this case, our heroine is the artistic Hailey, who’s creating her own comic strip. (That’s the reason I wanted to check out this title, that and the romance-comic-looking cover.) Due to Dad’s new job, her family is moving from NY to LA. (When she revealed that he was an entertainment lawyer, I suddenly wondered if Crane was a big fan of Clueless.)
While packing, Hailey finds her beautiful, popular sister’s journal, titled “How to Be a Hater”. It’s a self-help manual (read: magic plot device) full of advice that sister Noel got from some even-more-perfect-and-popular girl. It’s a weird idea, if you stop to think about it, the suggestion that the popular high school girls are actually secretly grooming their replacements. But better not to stop and think, or the idea that Hailey has an absent sister who’s mysteriously advising her while embarrassed by her would seem even more convenient. (This book isn’t big on foreshadowing. Much of what’s going to happen is spotlighted right before it does. Makes it convenient for reading in pick-up fashion, as you don’t need to remember too much about what’s happened before.) The diary provides an excuse for Crane to insert mini-essays on stupid things girls do and sayings that annoy Hailey and, presumably, Crane.
Noel also managed to leave behind several boxes of fashionable discards (instant free wardrobe makeover). Add in new contacts, a new haircut, and a new neighbor boy who turns out to know everyone who’s anyone, and voila, Hailey’s in with the in crowd at West Hollywood High. However, there’s also Anya, another neighbor called “psycho” by the popular kids but with a much more interesting personality. Hailey winds up using her self-improvement diary and her new friends to work on building the girls’ confidence. That’s when the book really takes off, as plots and counter-plots begin spiraling out of control. It’s almost Nietzschian, as Hailey risks becoming what she began fighting against.
Hailey’s voice feels authentic, and the observations can be quite witty, but I did sometimes get tired of the brand-name-dropping and the points where the author pushes the “I’m so clever” wordplay observations. She stops about five minutes after she should have, turning brisk wisecracks into marathons. Otherwise, I enjoyed spending time with Hailey and her creative friends.
Confessions of a Hater is due out August 27. Note that although aimed at young adults, there are both some sexual and dark events described herein. Realistic for high school these days, I guess, but still a bit disturbing when I think about it. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)