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A brilliant, hilarious, and ultimately devastating debut novel about how racial discord grows in America   In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his smal A brilliant, hilarious, and ultimately devastating debut novel about how racial discord grows in America   In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry and, in Gatsby-esque fashion, pulls him into a series of increasingly unlikely adventures. As their friendship deepens, Barry’s world begins to unravel, and his classmates and neighbors react to the presence of a family so different from theirs. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insular community, and in an easy, graceless, unintentional slide, tragedy unfolds.   How I Learned to Hate in Ohio shines an uncomfortable light on the roots of white middle-American discontent and the beginnings of the current cultural war. It is at once bracingly funny, dark, and surprisingly moving, an undeniably resonant debut novel for our divided world.  


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A brilliant, hilarious, and ultimately devastating debut novel about how racial discord grows in America   In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his smal A brilliant, hilarious, and ultimately devastating debut novel about how racial discord grows in America   In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry and, in Gatsby-esque fashion, pulls him into a series of increasingly unlikely adventures. As their friendship deepens, Barry’s world begins to unravel, and his classmates and neighbors react to the presence of a family so different from theirs. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insular community, and in an easy, graceless, unintentional slide, tragedy unfolds.   How I Learned to Hate in Ohio shines an uncomfortable light on the roots of white middle-American discontent and the beginnings of the current cultural war. It is at once bracingly funny, dark, and surprisingly moving, an undeniably resonant debut novel for our divided world.  

30 review for How I Learned to Hate in Ohio

  1. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a "zillion games" of scrabble, done a "zillion crosswords" and I AM BORED!!!) I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the When life for the entire universe and planet turns on its end and like everyone else you "have nothing to do" while your place of work is closed and you are in #COVID19 #socialisolation, superspeed readers like me can read 250+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today. (I have played a "zillion games" of scrabble, done a "zillion crosswords" and I AM BORED!!!) I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸. A brilliant, hilarious, and ultimately devastating debut novel about how racial discord grows in America In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry and, in Gatsby-esque fashion, pulls him into a series of increasingly unlikely adventures. As their friendship deepens, Barry’s world begins to unravel, and his classmates and neighbours react to the presence of a family so different from theirs. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insular community, and in an easy, graceless, unintentional slide, a tragedy unfolds. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio shines an uncomfortable light on the roots of white middle-American discontent and the beginnings of the current cultural war. It is at once bracingly funny, dark, and surprisingly moving, and an undeniably resonant debut novel for our divided world. Ohio is known as a "swing state" when it comes to U.S. Presidential elections and is especially known now as the epitome of Trump-living fanatics. (and this from a state who elected Obama!?!?!?) so the fact that Ohio is the state in the novel makes this novel resonate and perhaps for the wrong reasons!! The novel is well written and its story that will be talked about by individual people and book clubs alike- it is just an incredible read that will incite conversations about xenophobia, elections and your president's hatred for anyone who is not a WASP. (not that that statement and mindset explains his two Slavic brides....) It does not come out until January 2021 so I guess you can expect to curl up with a blanket and this good book - it also debuts two days before inauguration day so it could be doubly important by then. READ. THIS. BOOK. As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I love emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube Millionaires/etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  2. 5 out of 5

    Theresa

    I love novels that take place in the '80s, probably because it was the decade I was born. "How I Learned to Hate in Ohio" is a blistering and eye-opening novel about a teenage boy, Gary, trying to survive the homophobic bullies at school, and his selfish, immature parents at home. I must admit though, the first half was much stronger than the second. The pacing began to drag a little, but I felt like the last 30 pages were really quite powerful and unsettling. I wasn't really sure how this book I love novels that take place in the '80s, probably because it was the decade I was born. "How I Learned to Hate in Ohio" is a blistering and eye-opening novel about a teenage boy, Gary, trying to survive the homophobic bullies at school, and his selfish, immature parents at home. I must admit though, the first half was much stronger than the second. The pacing began to drag a little, but I felt like the last 30 pages were really quite powerful and unsettling. I wasn't really sure how this book was going to end, which is a good thing because it wasn't predictable or cookie-cutter. This novel deals with some intense topics such as: homophobia, xenophobia, racism, hate crimes, infidelity, betrayal, depression, and low self-esteem. This book unnerved me. The author really knows how set a mood. The writing was excellent and haunting. I hardly ever read YA fiction anymore, but I'm glad I gave this novel a chance. It was dark and made me tear up a few times. A very timely and relevant story that cuts like a knife. Thank you, Netgalley and Abrams for the digital ARC. Release date: January 19, 2021

  3. 5 out of 5

    Edel Green

    How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart MacLean is the darkly comic yet heartbreaking tale of high school freshman Baruch 'Barry' Nadler who lives in a small town in Ohio. Barry is very clever but friendless, regularly bullied in school and labelled 'Yo-yo Fag'. He becomes friends with the new boy at school, Gurbaksh, who happens to be Sikh. Set in the late 1980s, the book explores the development of the friendship between the boys, the impact it has on both their lives and the issues they How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart MacLean is the darkly comic yet heartbreaking tale of high school freshman Baruch 'Barry' Nadler who lives in a small town in Ohio. Barry is very clever but friendless, regularly bullied in school and labelled 'Yo-yo Fag'. He becomes friends with the new boy at school, Gurbaksh, who happens to be Sikh. Set in the late 1980s, the book explores the development of the friendship between the boys, the impact it has on both their lives and the issues they face growing up in Ohio. I really enjoyed this book. Chapters are short and punchy therefore it is a very fast read. Notwithstanding this, there are sections and lines that you want to reread and savour. The author perfectly captures the confusion felt as a teenager, how mysterious the opposite sex seem, how conflicting it is to be treated as a grown-up when still so young and the feelings of disappointment when you realise your parents are flawed human beings. Barry states that his mum tells him "these are the best years of my life. She doesn't know how much that depresses me." Every teenager has been told this and at some point every teenager has felt the same. While the first part of the book is very witty and clever and races past, it becomes darker in the second half. Issues of homophobia, racism and xenophobia are threaded throughout. This is such an absorbing story and you find yourself hurtling towards the end, unable to put it down. If you enjoy the work of Maria Semple, you will really enjoy this! It is released in January and I would highly recommend it. Thank you to Netgalley and The Overlook Press for the advance copy in return for an honest review. #howilearnedtohateinohio

  4. 4 out of 5

    Greg Zimmerman

    First appeared at https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c... How I Learned To Hate In Ohio, David Stuart MacLean's terrific debut novel, is one of the most authentic accounts I've ever read of growing up in a small town. Having grown up in a small town in rural Ohio, I know a bit about this. And real recognize real. Baruch — but he goes by Barry, because it's less pretentious and less likely to earn him an ass-whoopin' as he's beginning high school — is your average, ordinary, everyday, bookish 14- First appeared at https://www.thenewdorkreviewofbooks.c... How I Learned To Hate In Ohio, David Stuart MacLean's terrific debut novel, is one of the most authentic accounts I've ever read of growing up in a small town. Having grown up in a small town in rural Ohio, I know a bit about this. And real recognize real. Baruch — but he goes by Barry, because it's less pretentious and less likely to earn him an ass-whoopin' as he's beginning high school — is your average, ordinary, everyday, bookish 14-year-old. He's gawky and awkward, like many small town 14-year-old boys, and he has trouble talking to girls and spends his free time reading dead white guy books. His father, who named him after Baruch Spinoza, is a philosophy professor at the small college in town and his mother is an executive for Marriott, traveling the world to scout locations for new hotels. It's the mid-80s, they're comfortable, everything seems completely fine. But then a new kid comes to town. Gurbaksh Singh is the first Sikh kid anyone in this small town has ever met. But he's a charismatic kid — he goes by Gary for similar reasons Baruch goes by Barry — and that helps him avoid the worst of what the standard high school cruelty you'd expect for him. Barry and Gary soon strike up an unlikely friendship, as do Mr. Singh and Barry's father. Then Barry's mother comes home from a long work trip, and things get weird. Barry and Gary are forced to grow up pretty quickly and tangle with some adult issues. These, especially racism, are issues they're not yet properly equipped emotionally or maturity-wise to handle. Even so, and while Barry and Gary's collision with adulthood only gets more intense as the novel goes on, this is often a very, very funny novel. Yes, small town life is patently absurd, and MacLean captures this with expert comedy chops. As you'd expect with any novel about high school, there are bullies and girls, bad lunches and worse teachers, and immature jokes and horrific nicknames. (Barry's nickname, which literally everyone calls him, is Yo-Yo [email protected], after a seemingly innocuous incident with a yo-yo in grade school. And while we're here, if very politically incorrect terms are a trigger, you may want to skip this novel — there are kind of a lot.) I picked this up solely for its title, which I'd misread the first time as "How I Learned To Hate Ohio." :) Either way, though, it's still a fantastic read. It's short and powerful (and powerfully funny), and I really loved it.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    This book is interesting. A very, very interesting story about a kid named Barry (Baruch) growing up in 80's Ohio. I did not dislike the book. I did not hate the book. The narrative was intriguing, his Freshman year of High School was one of interesting comparison to The Great Gatsby. (The book, interestingly enough, almost seems to be a vague nod to it as well.) It also has to do with race - systematic and inherited. Barry's friend is Gary. Throughout the book, Barry wishes that he was Gary wit This book is interesting. A very, very interesting story about a kid named Barry (Baruch) growing up in 80's Ohio. I did not dislike the book. I did not hate the book. The narrative was intriguing, his Freshman year of High School was one of interesting comparison to The Great Gatsby. (The book, interestingly enough, almost seems to be a vague nod to it as well.) It also has to do with race - systematic and inherited. Barry's friend is Gary. Throughout the book, Barry wishes that he was Gary with his way to seamlessly blend into any group and any conversation. However, when matters closer to home seem to unravel his desire for being Gary it makes him realize how different the two of them are and how wrong he was to think he was to envy him. I feel this book will be of interest - there is going to be a discussion about it, and people may take it deeper than I did upon reading it. The bulk of the book seemed to build up to the last fourth, when shit so to speak hits the fan. At times I think the narrative regarding racism was a bit surface thin and that there was a strange obsession with the lead character and I couldn't tell if the author was hinting that he may or may not be gay? It would certainly make the scenes and his 'nickname' take on a deeper meaning of focus.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christopher Berry

    3.75, as my GR friend, Doug says, rounding up. This was really good, but it just did not push it for me to a solid 4. MacLean knows his craft, and he knows how to write. I thought the characters were interesting and the story was good, it just was not great. Although this book was short in length (249 pages), I thought there were some parts of the story where the author focused more on, i.e. the messed up lives of adults and not necessarily the relationships with his classmates, just a bit, I wa 3.75, as my GR friend, Doug says, rounding up. This was really good, but it just did not push it for me to a solid 4. MacLean knows his craft, and he knows how to write. I thought the characters were interesting and the story was good, it just was not great. Although this book was short in length (249 pages), I thought there were some parts of the story where the author focused more on, i.e. the messed up lives of adults and not necessarily the relationships with his classmates, just a bit, I wanted more. This is set in the 80s, but other than the mentions of a few songs here and there, I did not feel like the setting jumped off the page. I felt like I was looking in on these characters and their lives, but as a reader, I was being held at arms length, maybe that was done on purpose, hence the theme of the novel. The ending was a bit shocking (I won’t spoil it of course). The ending came quite abruptly, but I am ok with that. One thing that really struck me were the acknowledgments the author mentioned. Most acknowledgements at the end of the book are nothing but a bunch of thank you’s and a long winded mention of names. These acknowledgments were truly heartfelt, and as a reader, I appreciated that. I can tell that David MacLean put his heart and soul into this novel, and that is what is most important! At the end, I feel this book is good, but I am afraid that it may suffer from not being remembered.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    This was an incredibly fast-paced and equally comical and devastating read. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio covers heavy topics such as homophobia, xenophobia, and racism from the perspective of a teenage boy who is trying to come to grips with an ignorant and hateful community and his place within it. MacLean’s prose is both matter of fact and incredibly eloquent. While the town in this novel is fictional, the care taken in setting the scene easily reminded me of and transported me to familiar sm This was an incredibly fast-paced and equally comical and devastating read. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio covers heavy topics such as homophobia, xenophobia, and racism from the perspective of a teenage boy who is trying to come to grips with an ignorant and hateful community and his place within it. MacLean’s prose is both matter of fact and incredibly eloquent. While the town in this novel is fictional, the care taken in setting the scene easily reminded me of and transported me to familiar small Ohio towns of my childhood. While some of the more overt forms of bigotry and violence described in this book may be less prevalent today, the ideology behind it certainly lives on in Ohio (and across our country), and this book is a potent and relevant reminder of this. (2021 Read harder challenge #22 - book set in the Midwest)

  8. 4 out of 5

    ellie

    thanks netgalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review ok so: this book raises a lot of interesting questions. set in small-town america in the late-80s, we're introduced to an array of unlikeable and annoying characters. it doesn't quite detract from the story, but it definitely makes it a bit more difficult to read. i understand what this book is trying to achieve, and i think it's something really good. not a lot of things really happen, now that i've had a ch thanks netgalley for providing me with an advance copy in exchange for an honest review ok so: this book raises a lot of interesting questions. set in small-town america in the late-80s, we're introduced to an array of unlikeable and annoying characters. it doesn't quite detract from the story, but it definitely makes it a bit more difficult to read. i understand what this book is trying to achieve, and i think it's something really good. not a lot of things really happen, now that i've had a chance to step back and think about what i've read. but its a consistent story about a too-clever (white) boy who doesn't like school, and his interactions with racism and homophobia in a narrow-minded, repressed environment. his parents suck. the off-beat pacing and the repetitive multitude of slurs make this book difficult to read, which i suppose was the point. i will be interested to hear what more people think about this book, as i think it may just be something that didn't quite resonate with me. i think i'm coming to realise i just don't like reading first person books especially when the protagonist is a 14 year old boy, idk just personal preference lol. anyway. 3-3.5 stars at this point. may require a reread at some point but not some point soon.

  9. 5 out of 5

    bridget

    I love a good coming of age story, and that is what I expected when I picked up this book. I got that and so much more! It was a bonus that the time and setting both resonated with me. I was in high school in the eighties, my husband grew up here and I have called Ohio home for the last thirty years. Based on my experiences and stories I've heard about growing up here, the experiences and attitudes of the characters in this novel ring true. The narrative told through the eyes of a smart but lone I love a good coming of age story, and that is what I expected when I picked up this book. I got that and so much more! It was a bonus that the time and setting both resonated with me. I was in high school in the eighties, my husband grew up here and I have called Ohio home for the last thirty years. Based on my experiences and stories I've heard about growing up here, the experiences and attitudes of the characters in this novel ring true. The narrative told through the eyes of a smart but lonely teenager is believable. The standard themes specific to this time and place are explored, ranging from the universal angst of growing up in America, bullying, loneliness, friendship, parental relationships, trust, and young love, In addition, there are unique elements which address racism and add elements of surprise. The action that takes place in the novel is extreme and unique, but somehow, the characters and situations that the author has created do not seem too far-fetched! The author strikes a balance between too much and not enough description, giving the reader just enough information to understand what is going on in the character's minds without forcing a conclusion. This book far surpassed my expectations of a simple "boy growing up in midwest in the eighties" book. I especially found the exploration of racism timely when viewed through the lens of recent history. This was an interesting story with unique characters that I cared about. At the same time i was given food for thought on some very big issues that are still at the forefront in our current world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a very interesting book. It's the story of "Barry" Nadler who just started his freshman year. A new kid moves to town and they become best friends. The first half of the book has a lot of what you might see in a book about a kid who's bullied and made fun of at school. A kid with a parent who travels all the time for work and is absentee (mom in this case) and how this new friendship is impacting his life. It's well executed. Chapters are short, smart, and funny at times. But then things This is a very interesting book. It's the story of "Barry" Nadler who just started his freshman year. A new kid moves to town and they become best friends. The first half of the book has a lot of what you might see in a book about a kid who's bullied and made fun of at school. A kid with a parent who travels all the time for work and is absentee (mom in this case) and how this new friendship is impacting his life. It's well executed. Chapters are short, smart, and funny at times. But then things start unraveling. Lives cross, things get darker and a lot of issues like homophobia, racism and xenophobia all come at once crashing into a terrible catastrophe. There are so many questions this book raises about parenting, family, relationships, friendship, race and bullying and so much more. The book manages to be meaningful, funny, and tragic at the same time. Well done. with gratitude to Netgalley and The Overlook Press for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    How I Learned to Hate in Ohio tells the story of Barry (Baruch) Nadler as he goes from a much-bullied adolescent in high school and ends when he’s a young adult. His father is a college philosophy professor and his mother travels a lot looking for new sites for Marriott Hotels. He’s relentlessly bullied until a new kid moves to town and becomes his best friend. His friend is named Gurbaksh (Gary) Singh and he is a Sikh. He is self-confident and instantly popular and Barry becomes more popular in How I Learned to Hate in Ohio tells the story of Barry (Baruch) Nadler as he goes from a much-bullied adolescent in high school and ends when he’s a young adult. His father is a college philosophy professor and his mother travels a lot looking for new sites for Marriott Hotels. He’s relentlessly bullied until a new kid moves to town and becomes his best friend. His friend is named Gurbaksh (Gary) Singh and he is a Sikh. He is self-confident and instantly popular and Barry becomes more popular in his wake. However, it soon becomes clear that Gurbaksh’s father had ulterior motives in moving to Ohio and Barry’s family is profoundly affected. It all comes to a crescendo when Barry’s dad throws a party, a party where Barry loses the girl, his best friend, and his mother. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio is an excellent book. It is rich in character and a sense of place. It is full of humor and a love of humanity, a deep empathy that does tell us a lot about human emotions. It does not, however, explain how racism develops and festers. This is a story about Barry, not about the racists who plagued him and whose acts led to so much devastation. Barry does not become a racist. Yes, Barry learns to hate, but it’s personal, not the dehumanizing hate of racism. Barry does not lose his humanity, even when he fails Gary, even when he shames himself, his motivation is not from the dehumanizing hate of racism. So, if you’re looking for an explainer about how racism develops, you won’t find it. You will find, however, that hate comes in many forms, and Barry does learn to hate. I received an e-galley of How I Learned to Hate in Ohio from the publisher through NetGalley. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio at Abrams Books David Stuart MacLean https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Christina Potter Bieloh

    I started reading this book, and I could not stop. I really need to read it again because this initial time through I just gobbled up the story as fast as I could. I'd like to read it again more slowly and stop to appreciate and think more about some of his descriptions and observations. MacLean's writing is beautiful and creatively descriptive. The story is hilarious and insightful. It's also raw, crude, gritty and heartbreaking. There is bullying, racism, homophobia, and violence. Typically, I I started reading this book, and I could not stop. I really need to read it again because this initial time through I just gobbled up the story as fast as I could. I'd like to read it again more slowly and stop to appreciate and think more about some of his descriptions and observations. MacLean's writing is beautiful and creatively descriptive. The story is hilarious and insightful. It's also raw, crude, gritty and heartbreaking. There is bullying, racism, homophobia, and violence. Typically, I'd shy away from a book like this, but it's also just so darn funny, and creative and thoughtfully written. I will say no more so that readers can experience this book fully. I highly recommend this book. Thank you so much to #Netgalley for the Advance Reading Copy of this book. #HowILearnedtoHateinOhio

  13. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Bruning

    This book took a definite sharp turn somewhere in the middle. The first half was tinged with humor and worth at least three stars. Then things started to get strange and uncomfortable and super weird. Two stars for the second half because it gave me whiplash. I loved the idea of Ohio in the ‘80s, but there was so much happening with bullying and AIDS and drugs and marital infidelity and Islamophobia and the Challenger disaster that it was all a little too chaotic.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Samantha Luke

    The book is set in the 80's in a small town in Ohio. It is about Baruch "Barry" Nadler who is bullied at school and his friendship as it develops with a new boy at the school who is a Sikh. The book follows their friendship and the impact it has on their lives in Ohio. Unfortunately, this book wasn't really for me - resulting in 3 stars The book is set in the 80's in a small town in Ohio. It is about Baruch "Barry" Nadler who is bullied at school and his friendship as it develops with a new boy at the school who is a Sikh. The book follows their friendship and the impact it has on their lives in Ohio. Unfortunately, this book wasn't really for me - resulting in 3 stars

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tillie H

    "No one leaves this world unsullied." In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insu "No one leaves this world unsullied." In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insular community, and in an easy, graceless, unintentional slide, tragedy unfolds. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio was one of those reads that once I picked it up, I couldn't stop reading. Told through the biting perspective of 14-year old Barry, this book really makes you FEEL what it is like to be 14 and figuring out the senselessness of life. I felt for him through his struggles in high school, with friends, and his dysfunctional family. He observes and tries to take care of himself but the world is just too chaotic. Definitely a darker but good read and I could see it leading to good discussion with teenagers on racism, popularity, and bullying. Definitely recommend! Thank you to #NetGalley for the digital ARC of this book! It comes out in January 2021! Get it on your TBR/Wish List now! #HowILearnedToHateinOhio

  16. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    I'm a bit of a sucker for a good 'coming of age' novel, especially where there's an element of intrigue about who's who and why they do what they do. If it can also be set at a time I recognise well - I'm only a few years older than Barry, the main protagonist, then I'm happy to go back to an era without mobile phones and the internet when relationships were a lot more face-to-face than they are these days, I very much enjoyed 'How I Learned to Hate in Ohio' and found lots of little details of t I'm a bit of a sucker for a good 'coming of age' novel, especially where there's an element of intrigue about who's who and why they do what they do. If it can also be set at a time I recognise well - I'm only a few years older than Barry, the main protagonist, then I'm happy to go back to an era without mobile phones and the internet when relationships were a lot more face-to-face than they are these days, I very much enjoyed 'How I Learned to Hate in Ohio' and found lots of little details of the type that keep you thinking "This must be autobiographical" because it's just so well observed. It isn't - thank goodness, in view of some of the terrible things that happen. I wouldn't wish them on anybody. It's the 1980s and Baruch (Barry) is about to start high school. He lives with his dad, a college philosophy professor, whilst his mum is mostly absent due to a globe-trotting job assessing potential sites all over the world for a famous hotel chain. Enter Gurbaksh (Gary) a Sikh boy with great social skills and street smarts who, rather than being the outsider, seems to be Barry's route to acceptance at school. Perhaps Gary and his dad, the larger than life and rather rude Mr Singh, have other motives in coming to the small town in Ohio but as far as Barry is concerned, he's got a friend and he's in with the in-crowd like he's never been before. There's a great sense of time and place about this book which is never better expressed than in a powerful scene where the breakdown of the families is juxtaposed against the 1986 space shuttle disaster. The issues of casual and not so casual racism and homophobia are complex. We have to remember this is set pre-Gulf Wars (1 and 2), pre-9/11 and at the time that AIDS was an emerging and poorly-understood threat. The book captures the time beautifully. Were people really that ignorant about religion in the 1980s? Of course, they were. And in many cases, they still are today. The redneck ignorance about Sikhism is so casually bitter and I found myself wondering what a bunch of Ohio rednecks thought they had to hate Muslims for so badly in the 1980s. Racial violence is never justified. It's 100% wrong. What bugs me, and leave me wondering when I should be sleeping, is whether it can be worse if it's based on assumptions that are completely incorrect. If something is 100% wrong, can it be more than 100% wrong when it's steeped in simple ignorance? Earlier this year I read another book - Drowning Fish, by Swati Chanda - in which a Sikh character is attacked by men who take him for a Muslim. Part of me was thinking "This is massively ironic" but it wouldn't have been acceptable if it weren't a case of mistaken identity either. Can you be more wrong than completely wrong? Lest you should think this all sounds a bit heavy, it's mostly not. The book drips in authenticity. When describing a bookstore that sells off cheap remainder books, Barry describes them as "shelter puppies waiting for the needle and I can't go in there but for wanting to rescue them all". Book lovers will recognise that feeling. Barry describes the girl he loved and lost as smelling "amazing, like a mixture of gym mats and jasmine". And one final quote which is as funny as it's offensive and ironic, the response of a local man when told that Gary is a Sikh: ""Is that like Sunni or, what's that other one? Shih Tzu"" ""No,"" I answered, amazed that Randy knew so many sects of Islam. And dog breeds" I recommend this highly. It's a quick read with messages that linger long after I finished reading. I received a free ARC from Netgalley in return for a review.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Violet Daniels

    3.5/5 I would describe this book in a nutshell as a dark, seemingly poignant demonstration of the hate that inflicts many communities across America. Through the exploration of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and white, middle-class discontent, this novel shines a light onto the forms of hatred and division which remain at the heart of many American communities. Barry Nadler lives in Rutherford, Ohio, and is beginning his freshman year of high school in the 1980s. It's a time in American history 3.5/5 I would describe this book in a nutshell as a dark, seemingly poignant demonstration of the hate that inflicts many communities across America. Through the exploration of racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia and white, middle-class discontent, this novel shines a light onto the forms of hatred and division which remain at the heart of many American communities. Barry Nadler lives in Rutherford, Ohio, and is beginning his freshman year of high school in the 1980s. It's a time in American history fraught with divisions and rising race wars, amidst the backdrop to the Iraq war and the War on Terror to follow. Barry is very much alone and likes it that way, but meets Gurbaksh who quickly becomes his one and only friend. Gurbaksh is a Sikh and frequently gets belittled at school and within the neighbourhood due to his beliefs, which illuminates the extent of Islamophobia present in the community. I enjoyed this book and the themes it aimed to explore - however, it only really starts to take shape at the end of the book and has no real structure to it. The chapters are remarkably short and snappy which creates a nice pace to it but without this, I fear I would have struggled to get through it. The narrator, Barry, was likeable enough but I didn't like the way he didn't do a whole lot to challenge some of the racist rhetoric that was thrown around within his community. This is the second book I have read that has centred on Ohio and portraying a social commentary through its main character, Ducks, Newburyport offers a similar feel but through the present day, rather than the past. I think this book is important and has a place but I was constantly waiting for something to happen and when it did, it was pretty short-lived and left more questions than answers. The feel of it, mainly executed through its young, teenage narrator, reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye - a novel I didn't particularly enjoy. I would argue this is better as it is far more poignant and ambitious, and I was quite struck by the penultimate ending. Fundamentally, this is a novel about multiple forms of hate and how it can divide communities. "Hate is safe. Hate is urgent. Hate is unkind. Hate is ubiquitous. Hate singes the hated out and provides anonymity for the hater." Aside from the rampant exploration of racism, the novel also deals with dysfunctional families and relationships. Barry's father and mother have a complex relationship which unfolds throughout the novel into disastrous consequences and I can't help but think this has some kind of effect on Barry - possibly quelling his ambition somewhat. I enjoyed this book and appreciated what it was trying to do and think it is incredibly relevant to the current climate and I would probably recommend it to others who are fans of books that issue a type of social commentary placed within a distinct community.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Esme Davies

    Set against the cold reality of an 1980’s Ohio winter, How I learned to Hate in Ohio is a story of masculinity stretched to its extremes through the eyes of teenage narrator, Baruch. Questions of what it means to be a man are strewn through the text in the same way that clothes are thrown around a teenagers room. While there are indeed comic moments provided by the 14 year olds stream-of-consciousness style narrative, such an intimate expression of his mind is an effortless reflection on the prob Set against the cold reality of an 1980’s Ohio winter, How I learned to Hate in Ohio is a story of masculinity stretched to its extremes through the eyes of teenage narrator, Baruch. Questions of what it means to be a man are strewn through the text in the same way that clothes are thrown around a teenagers room. While there are indeed comic moments provided by the 14 year olds stream-of-consciousness style narrative, such an intimate expression of his mind is an effortless reflection on the problematic expectations and labels to which society subscribes. While by many accounts, we are lead through this novel by a middle class/white/cis gender/male from the Midwest, there is an understanding around issues of race, poverty, sexuality and mental health, many of which are introduced by the novels’ awareness of bullying in schools, as well as the authors own experiences, which he details in the Afterword. From Baruch’s own daily harassment that leaves him scrubbing AIDS related jokes off his locker, to a tragic incident involving his best friend, narrow mindedness and bullying play a prominent role in this modern (anti)bildungsroman (journey through narrator’s life involving spiritual education). One particularly important moment sees the narrator contemplating the social function of a joke, noting how they ‘provided some kind of handle on our emotions and helped make some sense of the damned carnival chaos of existence.’ I loved the quiet literary flair of this book. Though it utilises references that act as a secret handshake to the bookish crowd, and offers a profound exploration of language and ideas, at the heart of the text is something vulnerable and intimate. A secret anxiety that every human is trying to protect by taking on the world and trying to manipulate its shape to fit our needs and expectations. While the plot is fairly simple, and the character profiles are nothing necessarily new, MacLean’s characters ground this novel firmly amongst a literary cache of toxic masculinity exemplified, which breeds hatred as a result. We have the privileged position of seeing someone break away from a life of unhappiness, pain and neglect, but it is not without sadness that they begin to move forward and learn from their experience. This conflicted tale reminds us that not all endings can be completely happy, and we may suffer along the way. Hate is as valid as love and equally powerful, and sometimes it is the necessary catalyst for change. I loved this book for its honest and accessible story of such a painful experience that often goes undetected by even those closest to the epicentre. I certainly believe it to be a brilliant and essential read for the coming year.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kate Southey

    Oh wow! Where to begin to review this book. I loved it, even the hideous parts where I wanted to look away I was transfixed. So much of this novel rang true to me. I was in 6th grade when Barry started high school so while I get all the cultural references, I was removed from his experiences by the protection of being in junior high and still being officially a child and not a teenager. There are so many themes coming at you in the novel, right from the first pages so that you hardly know which Oh wow! Where to begin to review this book. I loved it, even the hideous parts where I wanted to look away I was transfixed. So much of this novel rang true to me. I was in 6th grade when Barry started high school so while I get all the cultural references, I was removed from his experiences by the protection of being in junior high and still being officially a child and not a teenager. There are so many themes coming at you in the novel, right from the first pages so that you hardly know which way to look. Barry, whose real name is Baruch after an obscure philosopher, has a strange home life. Mom works for Marriott hotels and is away 3 weeks out of 4 at one of their global locations and Dad is a philosopher, holed up in his study and taking little notice of his son. Add to that Barry is bullied at school and worse (from personal experience) on the school bus where he has been given the nickname “yo-yo fag” Homophobia is rife in Barry’s town and many of his peers are saying incredibly cruel and bigoted things that you know can only have come from their parents saying such things. Enter Gary, real name Gurbaksh a Sikh who also lives alone with his father and also has a less than normal relationship with him. His father is a fake who gets jobs on the strength of engineering qualifications he doesn’t possess and he moves himself and his son after only a few months in a city, on to another one. Barry has made his first friend. Now of course racism presents itself into the narrative. Gary is mistaken for a Muslim because to the average oaf in 1980’s Ohio, a turban means Muslim... or is that just the brown skin? And is it just the 1980’s? It’s terrifying when you realise that the hatred and rank stupidity in the world today and especially in the USA has been silently spreading, like a toxic ooze soaking into the collective psyche. Things get much, much worse. Barry has his first crush that looks as if it is reciprocated, he has a strange experience with the school bully, his Mom comes home from her business trip and we the reader are caught on the crest of a darkly funny, incredibly insightful and well drawn wave as a coming of age story entwines itself to The Great Gatsby and shows just how easy it is to hate. Hate your parents, people of a different race, religion, sexuality... yourself? I eagerly await more from this writer!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark taylor

    I got How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart Maclean for free from Netgalley for a fair and honest review. Trigger warnnings: this novel is set in the eightes and uses terms that may be considered inapropriate now. In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and i I got How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart Maclean for free from Netgalley for a fair and honest review. Trigger warnnings: this novel is set in the eightes and uses terms that may be considered inapropriate now. In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry and, in Gatsby-esque fashion, pulls him into a series of increasingly unlikely adventures. As their friendship deepens, Barry’s world begins to unravel, and his classmates and neighbors react to the presence of a family so different from theirs. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insular community, and in an easy, graceless, unintentional slide, tragedy unfolds. How I Learned to Hat in Ohio, is a novel written in the first person narrative style through the eyes of a teenager who has just started his freshman school. Although he likes to be called Barry as his real name is Baruch named after a philosopher, in addition to this he is known by a nickname at school. Normally a loner Barry becomes friends with the new kid in school, Gurbaksh, a Sikh who lives with his father and has just moved into ohio. This is a novel that works on a number of different levels on the one hand it reminded me a lot of Sue Townseds, Adrian Mole books, which is about a teenager in the early 80’s in the midlands of the UK. This was particularly true in the comic way the novel deals with teenage angst of changing from a child to a young man. While dealing with the problems of friendships and trying to find your place in the world. The novel is set in the mid to late eighties, giving it the backdrop of two things, firstly Reagon’s America, and the launching of a teacher on the space shuttle, one the backdrop of the story and the other the climax. All this gives the novel another level as it examines the change of old America full of hope to modern America driven by money and despair. How I learned to Hate in Ohio, is a wonderful read full of comedy and brilliant observations that can be read for its social commentary of 80’s America or just as a really fun read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liza

    Maclean delivers an unsettling coming of age story written in the very real voice of a teen who is neglected at home and bullied at school. Baruch “Barry” Nadler, Maclean’s antihero growing up in rural Ohio, launches his story in the humorously blunt first person narrative of a teen entering his freshman year of high school. He aspires to keep his head down, leave his middle school nickname (Yo-Yo Fag) behind him, and escape the halls without getting beat up by the town’s reigning bully. Such as Maclean delivers an unsettling coming of age story written in the very real voice of a teen who is neglected at home and bullied at school. Baruch “Barry” Nadler, Maclean’s antihero growing up in rural Ohio, launches his story in the humorously blunt first person narrative of a teen entering his freshman year of high school. He aspires to keep his head down, leave his middle school nickname (Yo-Yo Fag) behind him, and escape the halls without getting beat up by the town’s reigning bully. Such aspirations are killed immediately, but things begin to look up when a new and popular Sikh boy, Gurbaksh “Gary” Singh, enters school and instantly befriends Barry. Tellingly, both boys have crafted names that are more easily digestible by their peers, but only Gary succeeds in instituting his desired self. Barry remains stuck as Yo-Yo Fag, a name even his best friend can’t drop. As the year progresses, Barry experiences and witnesses a number of prosaic yet painful cruelties, from bullying, neglect, and apathy, to infidelity, homophobia, and racism. No one intervenes on Barry’s behalf and, likewise, Barry does not learn to intervene for someone else. His constant passivity and inability to fight for himself and others is at times wildly frustrating and ultimately tragic. Perhaps he is so frustrating a character because his response to the quotidian ills of his world are so real. He is not a hero nor is he a villain. He is simply the product of his small, uncaring world. However, as he matures his passivity becomes increasingly consequential. His apathy simmers into hate for some and his inaction results in hate against others. Ultimately, How I Learned to Hate in Ohio was not the book I expected. As the story progressed my care for the characters declined. I was uncomfortable with how cruelties and prejudices were left unchecked. I did not like that there was no satisfying redemption for the characters. However, the things that made me uncomfortable made the story unsettlingly real. It is not a book that will leave the reader appeased, but it will force the reader to grapple with necessary questions and realities. MacLean has created a unique resource for readers who want to dig into the banalities--happening right before our eyes--that produce hate, a subject area that is powerfully meaningful today.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Allison

    I may have grown up during a different Iraq war, but I assure you that the cultural landscape of Ohio was much the same during my teenage years. MacLean shines in his formulation of the interior world of adolescence. It is familiar, painful, and realistic; and, while reading it, I feel very relieved to never have to be a teenager again. Striking such a balance between the banality of teenage life - living a pre-scheduled life at the mercy of your parents, your teachers, your peers - and the majo I may have grown up during a different Iraq war, but I assure you that the cultural landscape of Ohio was much the same during my teenage years. MacLean shines in his formulation of the interior world of adolescence. It is familiar, painful, and realistic; and, while reading it, I feel very relieved to never have to be a teenager again. Striking such a balance between the banality of teenage life - living a pre-scheduled life at the mercy of your parents, your teachers, your peers - and the major events that mark time and make everyone's lives unique, is difficult. Spilling food on your shirt in study hall can absolutely feel more catastrophic than a near-death experience, and it takes a thoughtful and emotionally present writer to do it well, and to respect their teenage protagonist. MacLean absolutely does this throughout the book. Barry feels incredibly real and complex to me. The larger statements about racism and hatred, however, seem oversimplified and surface-level in comparison. They are thoughtful and true, but also obvious and they sometimes feel forced. MacLean's approach works better when he shows the more insidious, "socially acceptable" side of bigotry. The best example is the consistent use of Barry's nickname, "Yo-yo Fag," the "gay jokes" told at a party, and the reaction of the student body to the ultimate fate of their English teacher. None of these instances are expanded upon, and we are not given sermons about people recognizing their wrongdoing. Instead, through Barry's eyes (Nick Carraway and Dr. T J Eckleburg made great reference points), we are able to see the casual and accepted implications of hatred and bigotry without direct moral commentary. Similarly effective is the list of jokes about Challenger explosion. Again, my current events were different, but my generation had its own litany of horrific jokes. I cringed with recognition when I read them. I found all of these instances to be more powerful than the bigger storylines, because they showed me about hatred, rather than telling me about it. I would definitely read another book by MacLean, and I hope that he features another teenage protagonist! (Not something I would normally say - ha!) Many thanks to #NetGalley for an advance copy of this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    ManOfLaBook.com

    How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart MacLean is a novel which take places sometime in the 1980s about a friendless teenager and his foreign friend. Mr. MacLean is a an award-winning writer from Chicago, this is his debut novel. Baruch “Barry” Nadler is a freshman in high school with the impossible goal of finishing his high-school career unnoticed. When a new kid shows up, a Sikh teenager named Gary (Gurbaksh), the two become friends. Unlike Barry, Gary is outgoing and mischievous. Howeve How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart MacLean is a novel which take places sometime in the 1980s about a friendless teenager and his foreign friend. Mr. MacLean is a an award-winning writer from Chicago, this is his debut novel. Baruch “Barry” Nadler is a freshman in high school with the impossible goal of finishing his high-school career unnoticed. When a new kid shows up, a Sikh teenager named Gary (Gurbaksh), the two become friends. Unlike Barry, Gary is outgoing and mischievous. However, Barry begins to see how classmates, family, and the town people react to a Sikh family in town. I didn’t know what to expect from How I Learned to Hate in Ohio by David Stuart MacLean, but I figured a novel set in the 80s, which I remember too fondly, revolving around racism and xenophobia, which I remember not fondly, will be interesting. The story is told from the point of view of a bullied American teenager, whose eyes are suddenly opened to the hidden character of those around him. The novel could be considered a dark comedy for the most of it. Barry is nicknamed “YoY o Fag” by his classmates, and just exists for the sake of finishing school in one piece and leaving. When Gurbaksh, the Sikh shows up, Barry’s life changes and they boys face issues they chose to previously ignore. The book is very enjoyable and easy to read. The chapters are short and poignant capturing the mentality of a teenager unsure about himself, learning about life, sees his parents in a different light, and starting to realize that the girls are even more mysterious than they seem previously. This is a book that’s meant to be discussed, there are many issues which, unfortunately, we see playing out in real time during 2020. The book puts a spotlight on issues none of us want to believe exist, but we know that they do. The story could be told in any small-town, not just Ohio. Could be in New Jersey, California, Texas, or the Dakotas. The book’s first part is clever and tight. The second part of the novel becomes darker as it moves along dealing with homophobia, racism, and xenophobia in a small American town. This would be an excellent choice for a book club since there are many themes that could be discussed.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Tett

    This is a fantastic book, one which transported me to the 1980s (or back to the decade, I should say) - and, more specifically, to Ohio, and the town of Rutherford. Baruch - Barry - Nader is a social outcast growing up in the small Ohio town - he's bullied, he's ostracised, and he contends with his mother, who works all over the world for the Marriott hotel chain, and his philosopher father. Life for Barry is quite lonely but the writer conveys what happens to him, through the first-person narrat This is a fantastic book, one which transported me to the 1980s (or back to the decade, I should say) - and, more specifically, to Ohio, and the town of Rutherford. Baruch - Barry - Nader is a social outcast growing up in the small Ohio town - he's bullied, he's ostracised, and he contends with his mother, who works all over the world for the Marriott hotel chain, and his philosopher father. Life for Barry is quite lonely but the writer conveys what happens to him, through the first-person narrative, beautifully. Barry has a unique outlook on life, one which shows the reader it is possible to triumph over adversity, something that this book tends to focus on throughout. When Gurbaksh joins the school, a Sikh with a crazy, wild father, Barry's life changes, to an extent, and this leads on to parties, his mother leaving the family home, and his father giving up his professorship to work with Gurbaksh's father. 'How I Learned to Hate in Ohio' is a very thought-provoking read - it deals strongly with themes of racism and xenophobia in the 1980s, but also with family and friend relationships. Barry has a thirst for knowledge and rises above how the small-town mentality affects him in so many ways, no more so than towards the very end when an unforgettable tragedy is the final push for Barry to move on and start anew elsewhere. I am awarding this five stars - just. However, the short (often too short) chapters, and the slight tailing-off in rhythm towards this end, nearly swayed me to give four. I'm feeling kind today and the way MacLean evokes the midwest at this time in history helped me to decide. 'How I Learned to Hate in Ohio' deserves to be successful - it's a coming-of-age novel for our times, and one which is timeless in so many ways.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Paige Green

    Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: How I Learned to Hate in Ohio Author: David Stuart MacLean Book Series: Standalone Rating: 4/5 Diversity: Sikh character, gay characters Recommended For...: Historical Fiction Publication Date: January 19, 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction Recommended Age: 16+ (homophobia, xenophobia, racism, language, bullying, hate crimes, depression) Publisher: Harry N. Abrams Pages: 249 Synopsis: In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. Thanks! All opinions are my own. Book: How I Learned to Hate in Ohio Author: David Stuart MacLean Book Series: Standalone Rating: 4/5 Diversity: Sikh character, gay characters Recommended For...: Historical Fiction Publication Date: January 19, 2021 Genre: Historical Fiction Recommended Age: 16+ (homophobia, xenophobia, racism, language, bullying, hate crimes, depression) Publisher: Harry N. Abrams Pages: 249 Synopsis: In late-1980s rural Ohio, bright but mostly friendless Barry Nadler begins his freshman year of high school with the goal of going unnoticed as much as possible. But his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh, Gary for short, a Sikh teenager who moves to his small town and instantly befriends Barry and, in Gatsby-esque fashion, pulls him into a series of increasingly unlikely adventures. As their friendship deepens, Barry’s world begins to unravel, and his classmates and neighbors react to the presence of a family so different from theirs. Through darkly comic and bitingly intelligent asides and wry observations, Barry reveals how the seeds of xenophobia and racism find fertile soil in this insular community, and in an easy, graceless, unintentional slide, tragedy unfolds. Review: For the most part I really did like this book. I felt like the book did very well to have that 80s vibe and I really like the world building overall. I also felt like the character development was very sound and I was instantly interested in what was happening throughout the book. The only issue I really have is reading the book was that I felt like what was a little slow and pacing. Verdict: It was great!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Baruch Nadler is a fourteen year old kid living in the small town of Rutherford, in central Ohio sometime in the 1980s. He’s your typical nerd/outcast/loner type, called “Yo-Yo F*g” by all the kids in school because of some stupid incident years ago. He has no friends, until one day, a Sikh kid wearing a turban - Gurbaksh “Gary” Singh - shows up. They start a friendship. But things soon devolve. That’s really the best way I can describe the plot. I really enjoyed the first 40% - I thought Baruch Baruch Nadler is a fourteen year old kid living in the small town of Rutherford, in central Ohio sometime in the 1980s. He’s your typical nerd/outcast/loner type, called “Yo-Yo F*g” by all the kids in school because of some stupid incident years ago. He has no friends, until one day, a Sikh kid wearing a turban - Gurbaksh “Gary” Singh - shows up. They start a friendship. But things soon devolve. That’s really the best way I can describe the plot. I really enjoyed the first 40% - I thought Baruch was funny and smart, and I enjoyed the dynamic between him and Gary. But things started to get weird and go downhill pretty fast, mostly having to do with Baruch’s parents. He becomes an angsty depressed teenager super quickly, suddenly done with his social issues at school and feeling utterly rejected by his selfish dad and his erstwhile mom. He begins to hate Gary and overall, turns into a real asshole. I get what the book is trying to do. It’s trying to delineate how a relatively open, nice young person can become an unproductive, hateful member of society. Ohio and its ways, plus bullying, plus parental issues can all breed hatred. But I didn’t truly feel that the book accomplished this goal (if that was indeed the goal) - I hated Baruch and couldn’t sympathize with any of his actions, attitudes, or developments. The ending was a gut punch out of nowhere, and I was left feeling a weird mix of emotions - disappointment, confusion, anger - at the way things resolved. Overall, either this wasn’t for me or I just didn’t understand the character dynamics and moral of the story. Thank you to the publisher for the ARC via Netgalley!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tilly Fitzgerald

    A surprisingly tender and funny novel which shines a light on the prejudice in 1980s rural America, as seen through the eyes of a young high school student named Barry. What initially seems like a coming of age novel in which we follow Barry as he struggles with school bullies, a distant mother and a hopeless father, soon becomes something much deeper as he muses on racial tensions and the AIDS epidemic of the time. When he finally makes a friend in Gurbaksh, a young Sikh who has just moved into A surprisingly tender and funny novel which shines a light on the prejudice in 1980s rural America, as seen through the eyes of a young high school student named Barry. What initially seems like a coming of age novel in which we follow Barry as he struggles with school bullies, a distant mother and a hopeless father, soon becomes something much deeper as he muses on racial tensions and the AIDS epidemic of the time. When he finally makes a friend in Gurbaksh, a young Sikh who has just moved into town with his father, Barry’s popularity rises just as his home life begins to fall apart - and things soon become far more sinister until reaching a heartbreaking end. There are so many things handled in this novel, and all done with great compassion and humour on the author’s part. As well as the teenage landscape of education, bullying, sex and parental divorce, which of course bring their own drama, there’s also the much bigger scope of racism and homophobia in small town America which leads to some shocking events. The author has definitely created that small town claustrophobia where gossip is king but no one knows anyone as well as they think they do. If it wasn’t for the moments of humour and philosophy, this could be an incredibly depressing read (and of course it certainly has its moments) but the author has managed to strike a great balance in telling this story. I just wish we could say there’s been great progress since the time it was set in... Touching, funny and a different aspect than I’m used to reading on racial tensions in America, this is a great little read.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Pop Bop

    Well Written, Grim, Hopeless Our narrator "hero" does a very thorough, genuine, and depressing job of guiding us through all of the daily insults of teenage life. His observations are pointed and insightful, but his essential passivity and resignation is what colors this entire project. We've all read loads of books about bullying, racial and ethnic prejudice, homophobia, and the like, but the manner in which this book drives that home as routine and unexceptional is its most unnerving and depres Well Written, Grim, Hopeless Our narrator "hero" does a very thorough, genuine, and depressing job of guiding us through all of the daily insults of teenage life. His observations are pointed and insightful, but his essential passivity and resignation is what colors this entire project. We've all read loads of books about bullying, racial and ethnic prejudice, homophobia, and the like, but the manner in which this book drives that home as routine and unexceptional is its most unnerving and depressing aspect. I appreciated the quality of the writing. I was entertained by the dry, gallows humor. I was not at all surprised by the slow, inevitable downward arc of the story. Is it all a little pat and pseudo-realistic? Sure. Is it neat and tidy in a grim-yet-inspirational movie sort of way? You bet. So, I don't know if we "need" this book, but at this point we probably deserve it. I'm not quite sure why it's set in the 1980's instead of now, although that did mean we could sidestep the social networking baloney that would otherwise have had to be included. It did lead me to wonder what a 2050 book about the 2020's will look like. Assuming, you know, that we still have books then. (Please note that I received a free ecopy of this book without a review requirement, or any influence regarding review content should I choose to post a review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ffion Clarke

    *Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review* Baruch “Barry” Nadler is a white teen boy in small-town Ohio, and this book looks at his adolescent years as he befriends a Sikh kid called Gurbaksh; gets bullied by the bigger kids and called homophobic slurs; faces the breakdown of his family; and becomes a bit of a bully himself. I admire what this book was trying to do - discuss how the bullied often end up becoming bullies if there’s someone below them *Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review* Baruch “Barry” Nadler is a white teen boy in small-town Ohio, and this book looks at his adolescent years as he befriends a Sikh kid called Gurbaksh; gets bullied by the bigger kids and called homophobic slurs; faces the breakdown of his family; and becomes a bit of a bully himself. I admire what this book was trying to do - discuss how the bullied often end up becoming bullies if there’s someone below them on the spectrum of power + how easy it is to fall into bullying in a toxic town. But, in trying to cover so many different issues, it ended up only looking at each thing in a very artificial way. And that artificial way seems to be the constant use of homophobic and racist slurs. I get that this language is often warranted to show just how bad things are, but I’m not entirely sure that’s the case here considering any further exploration of these social issues is limited. It also didn’t help that while so much of this book focused on the social issues of the 80s, the protagonist is a white teen boy. A lot of the book is also about Gurbaksh’s story - the blurb says something about Barry being a friendless teen until ‘his world is upended by the arrival of Gurbaksh’. But Gurbaksh is just a side character and tool for Barry to grow and realise how racist his town is ?? Barry’s story is interesting and valid, but I constantly found myself wishing I was hearing things from Gurbaksh or Gary’s mum’s perspective, which was quite frustrating.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Dna

    OK, so I didn't looooooove-love-LOVE this book like I expected to, but it was a good read. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio tells of the friendship between two high school boys, White Baruch Spinoza (yes, indeed), Sikh Gary, and the ripple effect this relationship causes as they grow older. I love a good bildungsroman, so I picked this up expecting a deep dive into the psyches of two Middle American boys learning about what it means to be friends with The Other...but it fell flat in the sense that t OK, so I didn't looooooove-love-LOVE this book like I expected to, but it was a good read. How I Learned to Hate in Ohio tells of the friendship between two high school boys, White Baruch Spinoza (yes, indeed), Sikh Gary, and the ripple effect this relationship causes as they grow older. I love a good bildungsroman, so I picked this up expecting a deep dive into the psyches of two Middle American boys learning about what it means to be friends with The Other...but it fell flat in the sense that the characters weren't very well-developed. Everything, including the meandering plot, stays the same from beginning to end. We don't see Baruch or Gary change in any significant way, or come to meaningful realizations. So, while the writing was entertaining and even -- something I usually hate -- funny, I felt like I was reading a lazy approximation of Tom Perrotta's novels. Perrotta, too, writes stories about suburban ennui. Ya, not the greatest read, but a good book for the early part of 2021 and I'd recommend it to fans of coming-of-age stories, especially if you are interested in race relations. There are some really funny moments in this book and the writing is stellar, so I'll be looking forward to David Maclean's next effort.

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