When Hailey Harper’s family moves cross-country before her sophomore year, Hailey decides she’s been given a chance to re-invent herself when it comes to her social station within the world of high school. Aided by her older sister’s hand-me-down clothes and a journal called How to Be a Hater, Hailey seems ready to take her Southern California high school by storm and find her niche among the popular and famous.
But Hailey finds the popular crowd isn’t all she thought it was and after a day or two as part of the in-crowd, she decides she’d rather spend time with people who share her taste in music and other things and instead of being popular. She decides to use her older sister’s book of rules and observations to elevate herself and others to a different social strata.
Caprice Crane’s Confessions of a Hater chronicles Hailey’s rise as well as her feud with the popular crowd she rejected. Written with wry observations about life in high school and a few genuinely heart-felt moments, the novel seems cut from the same cloth as the hit movie Mean Girls.. Hailey’s first person narration is witty, sardonic and completely self-aware in an almost Joss-Whedon-like fashion.
Unfortunately, what Whedon makes look easy on the small screen isn’t necessarily as easy as you’d think and while this book has its moments, there are other times when it feels a bit too clever for its own good. A lot of this comes into play in an ever escalating series of pranks played out between Hailey’s clique and the popular clique. It culminates in a final prank by Hailey that seems a bit over the line as does the reaction by various authority figures within her life. (It almost feels like Hailey gets punished in the short term but rewarded in the long term for her prank).
Another question I have with the book is the target audience. While the ARC I was provided says this novel is one targeted to the young adult audience, it feels like Crane is trying more to appeal to those who are beyond their high school years to look back with a bit of snark and nostalgia. And while there isn’t a metaphor quite like the one Whedon used in Buffy, you can’t help but feel that Crane is trying to achieve that and coming up just a bit short.
There is some humor here, but I often found it hitting the mark because I’d gone beyond high school and could look back at it now and find the humor in the situation. Whether or not those going through it will enjoy this or not remains to be seen.