Haters by Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
An actual remainder table book. I picked it up because I remember her from the Evil Empire’s writing class back in the day (she was alisavr). I’m not sure why exactly I remember her (and her username!) when most of those people have vanished from my memory; she wasn’t involved in the foofaraw (aside: that isn’t spelled at all like I guessed it was). I think she was a just a presence in the chats. And well, there was that resignation letter. I think that stuck in my mind. Anyhoo.
Since 2003, Valdes (since she published this she’s dropped the Rodriguez) has published seven novels, with an eighth forthcoming next year. Haters, published in 2006, was her fourth.
Haters is a young adult novel. Valdes’s writing is fine, if a little heavy on the brand-name dropping, and there are lots of good elements here, but the story didn’t completely come together for me.
The core plot is your standard fish-out-of-water scenario: the story opens with 16-year-old Paski and her dad moving from New Mexico to California for his work. Paski’s main interest is bike riding (refreshingly uncliched).
One of the problems I had was with where the story started. There were a few chapters at the beginning with Paski in New Mexico before the move. I guess this was meant to show her “before” life, but there was a lot of detail about her grandma and her bffs and the boy she liked—enough that I kept waiting for this info to come back into play later in the story, but it mostly didn’t. So basically the opening felt like a warm-up to the story and I think a good editor would have lopped it off, said ‘your story starts here’ (on the road, arriving at the new home), and anything from the opening that was essential could be added in flashbacks.
The “omg my dad is so embarrassing” routine that was a constant thread throughout the book felt strained/forced. A little of this is fine—of course, all teenagers find their parents embarrassing—but there are degrees of embarrassing and Paski’s dad is not a schlumpy dork who wears polyester floods and a pocket protector and hasn’t updated his music collection in twenty years. He’s a comic book artist whose series has been optioned for a movie—hence the move to LA. He’s also 38 years old. And again, I realize 38 seems ‘old’ to a 16-year-old, but there’s kinda-sorta-old and there’s old-old, and yes! teenagers can tell the difference. My parents were a year or two older than that when I was that age and I distinctly remember friends commenting on my ‘young’ parents. And they weren’t the originators of a popular comic book series. I feel like it would have worked better to roll with her dad being geeky-cool (which he clearly is) rather than handling it like he’s an accountant or something.
My overall impression was that Valdes was trying to cram too many tropes into one story. It’s a mean girls story (the ‘haters’ of the title) and it’s also a paranormal. Oh, didn’t I mention? Yes, Paski’s psychic. She has premonitions. Was this necessary? Or was it just done to capitalize on the fact that everything’s paranormal these days? So, there’s a psychic sub-plot with the next-door neighbors, as well as the requisite one at school. There’s also the conflict with her dad over moving (and him being soooo embarrassing). There’s also a motocross racing plot. And, of course, the hottest boy in school who just happens to be dating the meanest girl in school plot. Because no one ever falls in lust with the second-hottest boy in school. 🙄