Book Review: Hate Is Such A Strong Word, Sarah Ayoub

Sophie is seventeen and about to start her final year of high school. On top of the regular stresses that being seventeen brings, she also has to deal with the challenges that her Lebanese heritage adds to the picture. With controlling parents who never let her do anything fun (or so it seems), a “best friend” who maybe isn’t actually that friendly, a brother suspiciously close to controversial riots, and a new boy who complicates everything, Sophie is in for a difficult year.

Shehadie Goldsmith is said new boy. He’s a controversial addition to her all-Lebanese school, as his father is an Anglo-Australian. Prejudice runs deep, as the students are warned to stay away from “the Aussie”, but when Sophie starts her new job at Big W and Shehadie is her supervisor, it seems she can’t escape him. And after getting to know the boy behind the rumours, she discovers that maybe she doesn’t want to.


“Hate Is Such A Strong Word” is a brilliant Australian YA novel. I fell head over heels in love with Shehadie, and despite my 110% Anglo background, I found I could really connect to Sophie and her struggles. I think that’s the point Sarah Ayoub was trying to make; growing up and the difficulties of being a teenager aren’t restricted by prejudice or background, they affect us all in the same way.

Prejudice, understanding, culture, family constraints, expectations, and growing up are all brilliantly explored throughout the novel. Sophie’s development and questioning give us – especially those readers like myself who have never experienced racial or cultural prejudice first hand – a real insight into what growing up in a cultural sub-section of Australia is like.

While I’m glad to be way past writing about Belonging (that word still makes me shudder) in the HSC, “Hate Is Such A Strong Word” would make an absolutely brilliant related text.

I read the book in one sitting, and was super disappointed when I got to the last page. It may be Sarah’s first novel, but she’s definitely nailed it.

If you liked “Does My Head Look Big InThis”, “Looking For Alibrandi”, “10 Things I Hate About Me”, or “Saving Francesca”, you’ll definitely adore “Hate Is Such A Strong Word”.

RRP: $17.99
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Rating: 4.5/5 

frangipani princess xoxo

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