Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub

I hate being invisible.

I hate that I still can′t fight my own battles.

I hate that I can′t keep up with the demands of high school.

Sophie Kazzi is in Year 12 at an all-Lebanese, all-Catholic school where she is invisible, uncool and bored out of her brain. While she′s grown up surrounded by Lebanese friends, Lebanese neighbours and Lebanese shops, she knows there′s more to life than Samboosik and Baklawa, and she desperately wants to find it.

Unfortunately, her father has antiquated ideas about women, curfews and the Lebanese ′way′. Bad news for Sophie, who was hoping to spend Year 12 fitting in and having fun - not babysitting her four younger siblings, or studying for final exams that will land her in an Accounting course she has no interest in.

Just when it looks like Sophie′s year couldn′t get any more complicated, Shehadie Goldsmith arrives at school. With an Australian father and a Lebanese mother, he′s even more of a misfit than Sophie. And with his arrogant, questioning attitude, he also has a way of getting under her skin...

But when simmering cultural tensions erupt in violence, Sophie must make a choice that will threaten her family, friends and the cultural ties that have protected her all her life.

Are her hates and complaints worth it? Or will she let go ... and somehow find her place?

Sarah Ayoub is a stand-out new Aussie YA talent with her debut Hate is Such a Strong Word 

The teenagers in this book are smart and articulate and brave and honest and ache-y. Full of hope yet enticingly tentative -- sometimes things seem more muddled than clear. I love when teenagers are portrayed this way -- even more so here as they had this genuine vibe that made them relate-able and fun and true and 100% compelling.  

Also, how open and gorgeously conflicted is Sophie in this quote (I really love her):

'I'm stoked that my barriers are finally coming down and I'm getting the chance to do something different. But something still gnaws at me, undermining my happiness  As I lie awake in bed that night it hits me: I'm seventeen years old and fighting for my freedom, but I've let my aunty do more of the fighting for me. How can I expect to stop being invisible if I'm not brave enough yo make myself heard? (p.65)

This book has such an Aussie vibe, which is testament to Ayoub's talent as she writes about being Lebanese in Australia, with a rich sense of Lebanese community flush against (and mingled up with) Australian culture. Nothing is as simple as it seems. I love books that do this well (Think Looking For Alibrandi and Randa Abdel-Fattah's work) and Ayoub is right up with that calibre. While the issue of identity and family and belonging are obvious themes that emerge, I don't want to focus on that as I want to highlight just how much of a touching and effortlessly enjoyable book this is. It raises some great topics, wonderfully articulated, but mostly I just really enjoyed being in Sophie's world. Seeing Australia through her eyes. She is a delightful and strong narrator, with loveable flaws. The thing I loved most about this was the voice, which made it an effortlessly enjoyable read, and it's the voice that makes me excited for more of Ayoub's work. 

Everyone gets excited when a fresh Aussie YA talent turns up on the scene -- and this is a book you should all be checking out -- and be sure to keep an eye out for future works by Ayoub. I am certain she is only just getting started as a stand-out Aussie author. This book was just gorgeous, smiley and brave.

Hate is Such a Strong Word @ goodreads

Hate is Such a Strong Word @ HarperCollins
Sarah Ayoub's website

Thanks to HarperCollins for my review copy <3


  1. Nomes!!! I remember when you first brought this book to my attention a few months back and I was eagerly awaiting to hear your thoughts on this book! I am so happy to see that it lived up to your expectations and more. Hate is such a strong word sounds like such a raw and beautiful story, just like how I like my books to be. I think I will need to order a copy of this asap! Gorgeous review as always!

    1. Jasprit! Thanks! it definitely lived up to me expectations. So glad you remember the cover. It's a beautiful and important story with a fab teen voice. Talk soon! xo


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