Saturday, March 9, 2013

Hating Heidi Foster by Jeffrey Blount

Published: October 2012
Publisher: Alluvion press
Pages: 120
Copy Provided by: Publisher
Summary: Goodreads


Mae McBride and Heidi Foster were the very best of friends. Tied at the hip from early elementary school, their relationship was the stuff of storybooks, legendary even, in the minds of their high school classmates.


That is, until Mae's father died while saving Heidi's life. When Mae finds out, she blames Heidi. She blames her father for putting Heidi ahead of her. She blames her friends for taking Heidi’s side. She begins to unravel amid that blame and her uncontrollable and atypical anger.

At the same time Heidi is beset by guilt, falls into depression and stops eating properly; wasting away physically and emotionally while waiting for Mae to let her back into the friendship she misses so dearly. 

Mae, consumed by her hatred of Heidi, the confusion regarding her father’s motives, the perceived desertion of her friends and her mother’s grief, loses more and more of herself.

What could possibly bring these two old friends back to each other? A miracle?

Hating Heidi Foster, is a young adult novel about the place of honor true friendships hold in our lives. It is about suffering and loss and the ethics of grief. It is about a deep and painful conflict, the bright light of selflessness and sacrifice and the love that rights the ship and carries us safely to port.


When I was in school, this would have been FANTASTIC for a book report or ISU.  

Growing up and hitting puberty, your emotions are heightened and so palpable.  Extreme conditions do nothing but heighten this and exagerate when you are feeling.  Mae goes through a plethora of emotions and seems to fly from one extreme to another.  She is looking to blame someone and often you strike out at those closest to you.  Surely hormones are partly to blame for how she is treating her best friend.  She blames Heidi for surviving the fire (while her father did not) and the anger is the only thing she can hold onto to try and keep her father's memory alive. 
This book was gut-wrenching and it has taken me so long to write a review because I could feel the impact of the story but couldn't find the words for it.  Don't let the length of this title fool you, it is 120 pages of raw emotion.  I hate to say this but I read chapter by chapter on the train while traveling to work and I couldn't read any more than that because I found my eyes tearing up every single chapter.  The anger Mae feels towards her friend for taking the life of her father is all-consuming and licks away at everything good in her life.  It was heart breaking to see how much she turned against her friends and even people in her family in dealing with her father's death.  Ever so slowly, she comes out of her self-destructive behavior and learns to grieve in a better way, letting others in and talking things out.

There were a few things in this book which bothered me in the beginning.  Mae used a lot of terms for her parents that I don't hear very often as an adult or hear from teenagers.  Mummy, Daddy, Gran Gran, all of these names felt very childish to me.  I think I stopped calling my father Daddy when I was about 12.  It started to bother me in the beginning of the book because I felt that it should be geared towards a younger audience.  As the title progressed, I found that it mirrored Mae's maturity and how she was still more of a child than an adult.  This labels to identify her family reflected her innocence and reminded me that she was still a young girl.
The second thing that bothered me a bit in this title was referencing pop culture in terms of today's music.  To me, this is a huge pet peeve only because it can date a title so quickly.  Mae talked about the Spice Girls (90s band for those of you too young to remember).

Despite these two complaints, I found myself enjoying Hating Heidi Foster.  Mr. Blount has done an excellent job of understanding the emotional termoil of a young girl during a time of grief and created a book that every school should have on their shelves. 

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