Friday, 5 November 2010
Review: Violence 101 by Denis Wright
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Released: October 14th, 2010
Grade rating: B+
Fourteen year-old Hamish doesn't simply do terrible things, he is committed to the belief that violence is the solution to the obstacles in life. But Hamish is also extremely smart, and extremely self-aware. And he considers everyone around him, the other institutionalized boys, his teachers and wardens, the whole world, as sheep, blindly following society's rules, unaware of what really dictates our existence. Hamish's heroes, like Alexander the Great, understood that violence drives us all.
Violence 101 is definitely not for the faint of heart. As you might have guessed from the title, it is violent, though not gratuitously so; there's a reason for everything Hamish does, and most of the time it's intelligent and makes perfect sense. That's not to say I agree with all of his thought processes and actions, because I don't. I think his intelligence is both a blessing and a curse, and his ability to over-analyse everything doesn't always do him any favours.
Written in diary entries and including accounts from adults in Hamish's life, Violence 101 is the story of a misguided teenager trying to navigate his way through a violent world. His previous crimes have led him to the Manukau New Horizons Boys' Home in New Zealand, where all kinds of troubled teens are sent to reform. Hamish is seemingly far too clever for this, though as his story progresses, it becomes clear that certain people get through to him and appeal to his rational side. It's a long process, but eventually progress is made and Hamish is understood by someone other than himself.
Violence 101, and Hamish Graham himself, reminded me of the TV show Dexter. It's not as graphic or murder-heavy as Dexter, but Hamish's mindset and inner fight with himself reminded me so much of a younger Dexter Morgan. He has all these feelings and impulses which he knows are wrong, but yet he has to experiment for his own piece of mind. I've heard numerous reporters and experts say that violent people, including serial killers, are often overly intelligent and not the mindless criminals we perceive them to be, and I think that could actually be right.
Violence 101 is a clever book, which leaves you with lots of things to think about. My only complaint would be the slightly odd ending, which I didn't think fitted in with the rest of the story as well as it should have. I've been mulling Hamish and his actions over in my head since finishing the book, and I think I see where he's coming from. I don't necessarily understand or condone it all, but Denis Wright writes Hamish in such a way that I can't help but like him, and everything he does. This is one of those books where I really shouldn't identify with the main character at all, but I do. If you read it, you'll see what I mean, and hopefully you'll be just as torn as I am.