Violence 101 by Denis Wright

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Black Dog Books, 2011. ISBN 9781742031781
Violence 101 is a difficult book to categorise. The main character is Hamish Graham, fourteen, highly intelligent and extremely violent. It would be easy to dismiss him as another troubled teen and given his history it would be easy to dislike him. However as the book progresses it becomes possible to understand him even when you strongly disapprove of what he does. The book raises interesting ideas about good and evil and redemption. Not all of these are neatly resolved which is a reflection of real life. I like the style that the author uses with writings from Hamish interspersed with the action of the story. Some parts of the book are disturbing, the incident with the neighbour's dog being one example.
As I was reading the book I began to wonder how it would be resolved. As you have more understanding of Hamish through his writing and the events in the book you begin to have some empathy for him and his situation. I think the author handled the issues involved well and created a realistic and believable resolution. There is no conventional happy ending, rather there is some hope for the future if Hamish can learn to control his anger or channel it into constructive purpose.
I would recommend this book for older teenagers and it could be suitable for class discussion.
David Rayner