Review: Some Kind of Hate

Some Kind of Hate

by Sarah Darer Littman

Scholastic, 2022

Category: Young Adult
Reviewer: Heather J. Matthews

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This is a tough book to read. Author Sarah Darer Littman acknowledges as much in a note before the narration begins. I will admit, I read the statement and I did not take it at face value – as a grizzled YA lit reader, I tend to believe that I’ve seen it all, so to speak. But, this book represents the very first YA book about online radicalization I’ve ever read, and true to its warning. I am left rattled.

Some Kind of Hate is a dual-perspective narrative of two friends, Jake and Declan. The story begins when both boys are 15 years old, follows both of their lives for about a year and a half, and then the narrative skips two years, ending when the boys are around 18 years old. Readers meet Declan first, a baseball pitcher with great potential. The next chapter is narrated by Jake, Declan’s best friend and baseball teammate. The boys are different in two distinct ways: 1) Jake is Jewish and Declan is not, and 2) Declan suffers a baseball-career-ending injury early in the story, while Jake does not. These two differences and how each boy approaches them, set every other plot point into motion. Throughout the book, narration shifts between the two boys as their stories intertwine and diverge – readers learn of some plot events told from both sides, and other events are only presented by one character.

The main plot of this book is centered around white supremacy, homegrown domestic terrorism, and online radicalization. Declan, depressed about his injury and in a vulnerable state, is radicalized online and finds himself as a member of a neo-Nazi militia group – a group which commits acts of domestic terrorism, all in the name of white supremacy. Throughout the book there are echoes of white supremacy’s most beloved catch phrases, like “Jews will not replace us.” More than once, my stomach dropped as I read the words on the page that I’ve only ever seen written in the most vile corners of the internet.

I have a mixed reaction to this book. On one hand, I want to shout about this book from the rooftops, and purchase a copy for every library in my state. This is a good book. It is well written, it has excellent pacing, the characters were engaging, and everything felt so true and real. I want to meditate and ruminate on this book, to write scholarship about it, and to place it into the hands of every angry teenager who has sent a Hitler meme in a thoughtless moment. 

On the other hand, this is the type of book that, when you finish and you close the cover, you push it behind the other books on your shelf so you don’t have to see it for a little while. This is not a feel-good book. I do not feel good having read it. In fact, when I finished reading it, I felt deeply unsettled for several hours. There were moments when the book felt too real, too threatening, too many shades of the reality which I know lurks around us all.

All that being said, I believe that this book is an absolute contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award, and believe that it has the potential to win several other book awards besides. The novel meets every criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award, and excels in some areas. While it is my beliefs that Some Kind of Hate may not have mass appeal due to its themes and plot contents, it absolutely has value in every way imaginable. 

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Reviewer Heather J. Matthews, PhD, is an assistant professor at Salisbury University. Her specialization is in children’s and young adult literature. She is specifically interested in diverse representation within children’s literature.