Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s first young adult novel examines the all-too-common dark side of high school in which powerful groups of teens carry out cruel acts against students who threaten their reign of popularity and control. In Haters, the arrival of beautiful and confident Pasquala Rumalda Quinata de Archlete ( Paski ) at Aliso Nigual High threatens Jessica Nguyen, the leader of the haters. Jessica is especially upset when her boyfriend, Chris Cabrera, takes an interest in Paski.
Paski knew her life was about to change when her father returned home to Taos after a two-week business trip to Los Angeles dressed like a 20-year-old pop star. After slaving away as a starving artist for years, he gets his big break as the head of an animation team for a movie and announces that the family is moving to L.A. immediately. Paski loves her life in Taos, including her two best friends, her new boyfriend and her position as co-captain of the school’s mountain bike team, and she doesn’t want to leave.
Haters is a literary departure for Valdes-Rodriguez, who is known for her best-selling adult novels, The Dirty Girls Social Club and Playing with Boys. She creates a well-rounded and likable character in Paski, whose move to sunny Southern California thrusts her into an unfamiliar world filled with shiny cars, palm trees and shopping malls. Paski soon realizes that she doesn’t fit in with the ultra-thin, beautifully dressed girls who dominate the culture at her school. In a difficult balancing act, she struggles to find her place while maintaining her own identity. Fresh, original and ultimately heartwarming, Haters will be passed from teen to teen as word of mouth spreads about this courageous coming-of-age story.
Renee Kirchner is a freelance writer and an educator in the Dallas area.