This will be Enrique’s summer of self-improvement. As his junior year of high school comes to a close, Enrique plans to tell his parents that he’s bisexual, get past his romantic feelings for his friend Saleem and find out where his interests in three other guys—Manny, Tyler and Ziggy— might lead. This might even be the summer when he finally tells his best friend, Fabiola, about “The Breakdown” from two summers ago and his ongoing experiences with anxiety and occasional suicidal ideation. But will the summer live up to Enrique’s expectations, or will it be messier, more complicated—and better—than he could ever plan?
Aaron H. Aceves’ debut novel, This Is Why They Hate Us, is laugh-out-loud funny, from Enrique’s analogies for sexual attraction, including a scene in which he compares bisexuality to choosing which dessert to eat at a wedding, to the awkward result of his brief dive into a hookup app. Aceves thoughtfully explores his characters’ diverse backgrounds, such as Fabiola’s complex feelings about her Afro Puerto Rican Cuban heritage. He crafts a scene in which Enrique recalls a series of interactions between Saleem, who is Palestinian, and some of their teachers with notable sensitivity.
Although Enrique’s romantic and sexual foibles drive the plot, the novel’s greatest strength is Enrique’s friendship with Fabiola, whom he has known since kindergarten. Their relationship, which survived the time they “fooled around” at Fabiola’s 14th birthday party, is a model for what a best-friendship can be. Fabiola makes Enrique laugh, listens to his problems without judgment, supports his romantic explorations and comes to his rescue unquestioningly any time he needs a hand—even while she’s on a date with the girl of her dreams.
Even if you think you know who Enrique will wind up with by the novel’s end, the story of his transformative summer is still witty and heartfelt. This Is Why They Hate Us is a tale of self-discovery that’s enjoyable all year-round.