CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 6. . . .October 10, 2014
Hate Mail. (Orca Currents).
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2014.
132 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & epub, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4598-0775-4 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0776-1 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-4598-0777-8 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4598-0778-5 (epub).
Grades 5-7 / Ages 10-12.
Review by Teresa Iaizzo.
Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.
I canít stand looking at that kid of yours. Iím sick of seeing him outside or in the schoolyard at Riverside, scratching under his arms and talking to himself like a lunatic.
Your kidís a freak.
Inspired by a true story, Monique Polakís Hate Mail tells the story of a young autistic boy who is targeted by hate and prejudice. At its core, the novel reflects on family, acceptance, and the need to stand up for what you believe in.
In the beginning of the story, readers meet Jordie, the storyís protagonist, who learns of a hateful letter sent to his cousin Todd. Todd is autistic and quite unpopular at school. He is so unpopular that Jordie does not even acknowledge the fact that they are related. As Todd is constantly being bullied, Jordie lacks the inner resolve to stand up to his cousinís tormentors.
One day, Jordie accidentally comes across the hateful letter in his momís email. What he reads there literally sickens him as the handwritten note outlines horrible opinions about Todd and autism in general. Jordieís aunt is so distraught by this letter that she intends to go public in order to raise awareness about the issue.
The discovery of the hate mail is a turning point in the novel as it serves as the catalyst for Jordie to view his cousin in a different light. In the end, not only does he own up to their relationship, but he also comes to appreciate his cousin for who he really is.
Ultimately, I found this story to be a little bit predictable. We all know that Jordie will see the metaphorical light and choose the right path, that of standing up for his cousin. However, what the book lacks in originality it makes up for in relevance. Polak does a great job at getting inside Jordieís head, to his true feelings and the reasons behind his reluctance to stand up for his cousin. He is so afraid that his friends will look at him differently that he hesitates to discuss his personal life with anyone. And what teenager cannot relate to that? In the end, I would recommend Hate Mail to anyone who is interested in teaching their children about social justice and the importance of standing up for what you believe in.
Teresa Iaizzo is a Senior Library Assistant with the Toronto Public Library.
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