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.
Hate is Such a Strong Word is a standout debut from Sarah Ayoub. It’s the story of Sophie: a Lebanese teenager navigating her way through life with Dictator Dad, narrow minded classmates and first love. Set in Bankstown and against a backdrop of tense racism. The story draws from the Cronulla riots of 2005 and brings these issues back to the foreground when a young Lebanese guy is bashed by a group of Aussies.
I found it really interesting looking at these issues through the eyes of Sophie, someone who struggles with where she belongs: too Aussie for the Lebanese and too Lebanese for the Aussies. Sophie clings to her invisibility even though she has these strong opinions she prays she won’t be called on them, she just wants to blend in. When Shehadie Goldsmith, half Lebanese half Australian, arrives at her all Lebanese catholic school Sophie finds her opinions seem to force their way out.
Sophie has a lot to deal with and a lot to hate on. On the one hand she wants to be free to make her own decisions and not have to live by her over protective father and on the other she deeply values her culture and traditions. I loved how Shehadie called into question her various beliefs and forced Sophie to make up her own mind. Their relationship was wonderful (the scene where they talk about sex in the lunchroom might just be one of my most favourite things I’ve ever read).
While I thoroughly enjoyed Hate is Such a Strong Word I feel in the effort to get these important issues across some of the story was sacrificed. At times characters only felt like a mouthpiece for discussion rather than themselves. Zayden is probably the best example of this. I would’ve loved for him to be more fleshed out: to really see the teenage boy. This is only a small hitch though in an otherwise brilliant book.
I’ve seen Hate is Such a Strong Word compared to Melina Marchetta’s Looking For Alibrandi and I can see why. It has a very similar feel. I’m really excited for people to read this!
Thanks to Harper Collins for my review copy.