Violence 101- Denis Wright


Hamish Graham is intelligent, disciplined, resourceful and fearless, and scorns all weakness. His heroes include Charles Upham, Alexander the Great and Te Rauparaha – all men of action. But he is also a fourteen-year-old with an anger problem and a disturbing past, and these have landed him in a series of boys’ homes for violent and troubled young offenders.

The gripping series of events following his arrival at New Horizons culminates in a desperate rescue mission on a mountain that has already claimed the lives of two young soldiers.

Hamish is smart, calculating, clever, but most of all, bad. Or so his teachers would lead you to believe. Underneath his horrible behavior, is a misunderstood boy, quite brilliant, who looks up to great leaders like Alexander the Great.  Hamish’s mind is just wired…differently from most boys his age. Most boys get out their aggression through schoolyard fights and hitting the gym; Hamish takes it out on his neighbor’s dog. Which isn’t to say he’s going to grow up to be a maniac psychokiller, but to the outside world, he’s no better than a criminal.

Told through journal entries and mixed narrative, Hamish explains his story, and why he does the things he does. At the heart of things, Hamish is just curious. He thinks up ideas and tests them to find the outcome. Really, he has a brilliant mind for science and especially military strategy and tactics.

The New Zealand setting takes what could be just another boring misunderstood- teen-boy-hooligan story, and adds real depth. (The helpful Kiwi slang guide in the back is a real treat).

Violence 101 is exciting, dark, and at times, hilarious. I got a vibe of Fight Club meets Dexter. To the world, Hamish is a jokester, only no one else is laughing. He may come across as though he has no conscience, but rather it is replaced by an “honor code” of sorts, modeled after his heroes. I couldn’t help but cheer him on, even though I knew he should be having a hell of a therapy session.

Not a great book, but a pretty darn good one. I think a bridge between Part 1 and 2 would have made the narrative more coherent, instead of reading like two separate stories. Definitely a good read for those who like a little grit in their stories.

Page count: 240
Release date: Oct 14, 2010
Rating: [rating: 3]
Teaser Quote: “My name is Hamish Graham and this is the journal I have to write…the people who run this place don’t know what to make of me. Just like the last place I was in …”