The Haters Author Jesse Andrews On 10 Funny Must-Reads

Jesse Andrews

In The Haters, the sophomore novel from Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl‘s Jesse Andrews, three friends meet at jazz camp, make musical magic, then promptly hit the road, leaving the lameness of camp behind in favor of an impromptu summer tour for their hastily formed trio. Best friends Wes and Corey (on bass and drums) are joined by female guitar player Ash, finding adventures ranging from run-ins with eccentrics to a very bad drug trip, in pursuit of a chance to get great. On shelves Tuesday, The Haters promises to be as funny, offbeat, and profane as its predecessor—and here’s Andrews on 10 of his favorite hilarious reads:

These are Jesse Andrews’s 10 Funny Young Adult Books (That He Is Refusing to Designate as a Top 10 Because He Does Not Like Declaring Favorites Because He Is Kind of Boring and also a Coward). They are in alphabetical order by author and each one has made me giggle, which is no mean feat, because in person I am a humorless robot man.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
Arnold “Junior” Spirit, a cartoonist and basketball player growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation, leaves his school for an all-white one 22 miles away. This is one of those funny YA books where the narrator actually feels authentically teenaged, in his frenetic insane bursts of excitement and melancholy. Also a book with this much death and suffering in it has no right being as funny as it is.

Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here, by Anna Breslaw
Scarlett writes fan fiction, and this book (publishing in April, like mine) toggles with great wit and warmth between the turbulent romances in her writing and those in her real life. Breslaw is also a master of the digressive sentence that, if it catches you at the right time, will make you snort audibly on a bus or something, e.g., this one: “For a second I felt like Al Pacino in that scene in The Godfather where he shoots all those guys in that restaurant and then he flees to Sicily and marries that girl who doesn’t speak his language but has really nice breasts and then she gets blown up in a car.”

Boy, by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is maybe my favorite author and I had to shoehorn him in somehow. This is a memoir, but it includes his teenage years, so I’m calling it YA and leaving it here and then sprinting away before anyone yells at me. Why do I love Roald Dahl? His voice, more than anything. It’s irreproducible. It’s so musical and it’s funny even when it’s not trying to be, which is most of the time.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz
Oscar is one of the great tragic teen heroes—a chubby anime- and Tolkien-devouring nerd, a hopeless romantic, and a misfit in his macho Jersey ghetto. And yeah, the book is funny because of all the misfitty outsidery observation of the world and Oscar himself, the combination of ruthless truth-telling and sympathy. But again, it’s the voices and the dialogue I like the most. Part of it is the narrator’s restless linguistic inventiveness, like when he calls the sex-mad Dominican strongman Trujillo a culocrat. That is an objectively perfect word.

The Year of Secret Assignments, by Jaclyn Moriarty
Three girls at a tony Australian school are forced to write letters to three boys at a somewhat more hurting Australian school. Moriarty is superb at brewing voices and terrifically deft with form—the book consists solely of things written by the characters in it, to each other or to themselves. My face hurt from grinning so much after I turned the last page.

The Lifeboat Clique, by Kathy Parks
A natural disaster traps Denver Reynolds, a not popular girl, at sea on a small motorless boat with super popular and bitchy girls. This book is as savage and hilarious as the ocean itself, and in fact way more hilarious, because the ocean is not intrinsically all that hilarious. Parks goes to some very dark places—the body count is higher than I was expecting—and yet keeps it both funny and real and I have no idea how she did it.

Youth in Revolt, by C.D. Payne
Okay, look. Undersexed, overread, white cis hetero teenage boys are wildly overrepresented in the culture. But if I’m choosing one such protagonist to include here, it’s Nick Twisp of Payne’s psychedelic, screwball, Perelmanian riff on the grotesque hormonal chaos going on inside the heads of teenage boys everywhere. (Unfortunately, I’m actually not choosing just one. Literally the next book on this list is about an undersexed white cis hetero teenage boy. And so was Roald Dahl’s. And so was my first book. Look, I’m part of the problem. I know this.)

King Dork, by Frank Portman
This book has the best second sentence of any book I have ever read. The first sentence is, “They call me King Dork.” The second sentence is, “Well, let me put it another way: No one ever actually calls me King Dork.” That is how you do it. I also love this book for its unrestrained loathing of The Catcher in the Rye. It’s not that I hate Catcher in the Rye, it’s just always funny to me when a book nakedly hates another book.

Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell
The tragic Bigtree family wrestles alligators at a failing little amusement park in the Florida swamps. Ava, 13, stays behind as her older siblings run away: Ossie elopes with a ghost and Kiwi leaves in a desperate bid to make money working for a much more successful and corporate amusement park. The voices in this book will probably not sound to anyone like human teenagers they have met in this world, but that is pretty far from the point; the writing is outrageously, almost stomach-turningly beautiful, which is how its sly jokes and fun catch you completely off-guard.

Trouble is a Friend of Mine, by Stephanie Tromly
I am in awe of Tromly because of what she has pulled off—a funny, realistic teen crime caper. Do you know how hard it is to get those right? It’s basically impossible. But this book sings. Zoe Webster is in exile with her divorced mom in upstate New York, and mysterious, hilarious Digby enlists her as the Watson to his Sherlock in his dogged investigation of disappearances around town. It’s a well-plotted book with a ton of range, but what makes it work is its characterization—the detail and the dialogue are so specific and well-observed.

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