Violence 101

Violence 101

5.0 2
by Denis Wright

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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,…  See more details below


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.

Through mesmerizing journal entries, Violence 101 paints a disturbing yet utterly compelling picture of an extremely bright, extremely misguided adolescent who must navigate a world that encourages aggressive behavior at every turn, but then struggles to help a young man who doesn't know where to draw the line between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hamish Graham is 14 years old and in his fourth juvenile detention home for violent behavior--including what would have been manslaughter if he'd been old enough for jail. Hamish is confident, intelligent, and hardly sympathetic, but as the book progresses, readers see there is a method to what is not exactly madness. Shifting mainly between Hamish's journal entries and heated conversations among staffers about him, debut novelist Wright reveals that the genesis of Hamish's actions lies with society. Where is the moral distinction between Hamish's experiments on animals and those done by medical researchers? And how, Hamish asks, would his hero Alexander the Great, "probably responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths," be thought of today? Set in New Zealand, where it was published in 2007, Wright's novel is clever and biting, a tragedy of society's failure to deal with kids like Hamish and a satire of society's winking condemnations of violence. Hamish's actions can be revolting, despite his justifications, but he still draws empathy as a product of the environment at large. Hardly a comfortable book to read, but a gripping one. Ages 14–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Janis Flint-Ferguson
Fourteen year old Hamish Graham has antisocial personality disorder. His past history is filled with antisocial behaviors including cruelty to animals and the unintended death of a man. Now he is being sent to Manakua New Horizons Boys Home, one more stop for this kid who has no remorse and only disdain for the adults around him. The setting of the novel is New Zealand and the story is told using New Zealand slang and Maori imagery; a glossary is provided in the back of the book. Readers are drawn inside the mind of Hamish through his diaries, an assignment by the principal that makes Hamish analyze and discuss the way he responds to the world. He is interested in military strategy and idolizes the exploits of Alexander the Great. He hates weakness of any kind and especially does not stand for it in himself. He sticks a fork in Victor's face to establish his superiority and manipulates therapy into a word game. Finally he plans to challenge himself to climb the highest peak in New Zealand's mountains and sets off during a snowstorm to prove his abilities. Despite his horrific treatment of animals and others, Hamish is paradoxically a sympathetic protagonist. Too smart for school, he has plunged himself into unfeeling rationalization, and yet there is vulnerability in his bravado. Not for young readers because of the violence and the language, but older readers may be fascinated by the workings of someone who cares so little—or at least says he does. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
VOYA - Heather Christensen
Calling the ghosts of Salinger's Holden Caulfield and Alex from Burgess's A Clockwork Orange (W. W. Norton, 1986), Wright's first novel for young adults tells the story of fourteen-year-old Hamish Graham, who upon arrival at Manukau New Horizons Boys' Home knows exactly why he is there: "I am in here because sometimes I do very violent things and I am too young to go to jail," he writes in his journal. Hamish's violent behavior is truly disturbing, and some members of the staff are anxious to move him on to another facility. Yet others believe his considerable intelligence and ability to influence the other boys indicate enormous potential. Wright helps readers get inside Hamish's head by alternating third-person narration with Hamish's journal. His obsession with heroic historical figures such as Alexander the Great engenders discussion on what kinds of violence are acceptable—even admired—and what is ostracized. While some readers may find Hamish's arrogance off-putting, others will likely relate to his anger and frustration with the adults around him. Likeable or not, it is Hamish's complex and thought-provoking character that carries the story. Other characters lean toward stereotypes—the sensible yet compassionate head mistress or the devoted teacher with a mysterious past transgression. Although the book is not particularly plot driven, readers will be on the edge of their seat throughout the dramatic, and ultimately hopeful, ending. Reviewer: Heather Christensen
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—New Zealander Hamish Graham is in his third institution—this time for violent offenders. Not only has he attacked other youth, but he also has attacked staff and a therapist. From a "good" family, Hamish could be labeled a genius and/or a sociopath; he has no qualms about his violent behavior, and, in fact, he elaborately and convincingly justifies it. The book alternates chapters between staff meetings to discuss Hamish and his lengthy journal entries. The journal provides insight into the 14-year-old's take on staff, group homes, his past, and international history. Obsessed with the normalcy of violence, Hamish studies and writes about leaders such as Alexander the Great and Maori chief Te Rauparaha, and wishes he had been born into a warrior society. What he doesn't expect is to start to care about a staff member. When he escapes the facility on an extreme mission of his own design that will either kill him or provide him with what he's always wanted, the book picks up speed. A lengthy glossary of New Zealand English and Maori terms and information about the country's history and culture are included. This first novel is for those "special readers"—the smart and antisocial ones—like Hamish himself.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Military geniuses Alexander the Great, Charles Upham and Te Rauparaha are 14-year-old New Zealand inmate Hamish Graham's idols. Like them, he's tough and smart, and he doesn't shy away from danger, terror or death--really, he's more than a little sociopathic. His journey to juvie unfolds in a meandering patchwork of alternating third-person chapters mixed with Hamish's journal entries, in which he establishes himself as the leader among the inmates. The book's arresting cover, fast-paced action and provocative theme will score big with reluctant readers, but the disjointed narrative may throw them on occasion. Wright has trouble connecting ideas to action, and the plotting contains several weak moments. Hamish's many overwritten histories of his idols awkwardly stop and restart the action. The death-defying climax is a case in point: It's full of excitement but feels tacked on and disconnected from both the plot and the emotional journey of the characters. Still, the author obviously knows his material and audience, and he's built in lots of potential to thrill even if readers have to flip pages to get to the better parts. (Fiction. 12 & up)

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Product Details

Penguin Young Readers Group
Publication date:
Sold by:
Penguin Group
File size:
227 KB
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

Denis Wright lives and is an English teacher in an inner city high school in Wellington, New Zealand.

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