They Hate Each Other by Amanda Woody

Reviewed by Rod McLary

Who doesn’t enjoy a good romance?  Especially when the protagonists – at least initially – seem to dislike each other, but by the conclusion of the book or film, end up together.  One only needs to think of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in The African Queen or Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, or more recently Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles in Ten Things I Hate About You.  We all know the destination of these narratives but it is the journey to that destination which makes them so enjoyable.

Now we have in They Hate Each Other, a modern-day romance between Dylan Ramírez and Jonah Collins – two seventeen-year-old boys in their last year at school – self-described as ‘bisexual mascs’, that is, boys attracted to all genders but who identify broadly with masculinity.  In keeping with tradition, they – as the title says – hate each other.  Jonah describes Dylan as ‘arrogant’, ‘spoiled’ and a ‘golden boy’; while Dylan says of Jonah that he ‘is an attention-seeking a**hat who never shuts his filthy mouth’.  But their friends believe that they are meant for each other and when, one morning after a party where too much alcohol was consumed, Dylan and Jonah wake up sharing the same bed, their friends are convinced the boys are officially together.  Dylan and Jonah loudly protest to the contrary but no one takes any notice.  So together they devise a plan where they will ‘pretend’ to be a couple and, after three months at the end of the school year, will break up loudly and [hopefully] convincingly.  Then they can have nothing more to do with each other.

By this point, the reader may think They Hate Each Other will be a typical love story but with two boys.  But this is not the case.  There are depths to this novel which add a certain piquancy to the events as they unfold.  Both boys have rather unhappy back stories which are gradually revealed through the course of the novel.  Jonah’s mother died in a house fire four years previously and his father retreated into alcoholism leaving Jonah to take on the adult role and care for his sisters – and keep them out of foster care.  Dylan’s mother has emotionally withdrawn from him due to an incident with his uncle which is not made explicit but involved some form of abuse, a baseball bat, blood and Dylan’s older brother Tomás spending some time in prison.  In addition, Tomás is estranged from Dylan.

The boys put their plan into play, and in doing so, they gradually learn more about each other and their lives away from school.  Consequently as they overcome each other’s resistance to getting closer, their relationship changes.  There are heart-warming, and some heart-wrenching, moments as the narrative progresses towards its [almost] inevitable denouement.  It is interesting to see the sensitivity that all the characters display towards each other throughout the story.  Whether it is simply observing and acknowledging the distress one or other of the characters is experiencing or deciding who will decide whether [and when] a relationship will move to another level, there is a consistency and authenticity in their care towards one another.

The author who identifies as non-binary has crafted a modern romance which is an enjoyable read.  They have stated in their ‘Note from the Author’ that the intention of the novel was ‘to depict queer characters and love in a community safe from discrimination’ and this has been beautifully achieved.  There is a strong sense throughout the narrative that each of the characters is accepted on his/her own terms regardless of their sexuality or gender.

It is a book well worth the reading.

They Hate Each Other


by Amanda Woody


ISBN 978 139971 914 8

$22.99; 343pp



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