Editor's Note: This story contains graphic and mature depictions of sex, drug and alcohol use. Read at your discretion.
Some Rock Springs parents are alarmed at finding “The Haters” by Jesse Andrews in the Rock Springs High School library, a book that explores teen sex in graphic detail, drug and alcohol use, as well as facing one’s fears and issues.
The book is in other high school and public libraries around Wyoming, including the young-adult shelves of the Carbon County Public Library in Rawlins, the Hot Springs County Library, the Sweetwater County Public Library in Rock Springs and the Uinta County Public Library in Evanston, according to the Wyoming State Library system card catalog.
There are versions in the Newcastle, Natrona County, Kelly Walsh, Cheyenne East, Cheyenne South and Cheyenne Central High Schools, according to their card catalogs.
Cowboy State Daily offers this comprehensive review.
Spoiler Alert: The Plot
“The Haters” tracks the meeting and music tour of two teenage boys, Wes and Corey, who are about 16, and their new friend Ash, who is 19. Andrews narrates the book through Wes, in a rambling colloquial teen-slang prose that is alternately creative and crass. The three teens meet at band camp. When they discover an alt-rock/blues connection together, they run away from camp, leaving their phones and a note, to go on tour in the American South.
They have a hard time landing gigs and they perform poorly on stage.
The boys learn that Ash’s dad is a billionaire and she has a funded credit card. They stay in lavish hotels at first and eat expensive food.
In the hotel room one night after a poor performance, Wes falls asleep and Corey attempts to give Ash oral sex for half an hour and she does not enjoy it.
In the morning, Corey informs Wes that he and Ash “hooked up,” and Wes becomes jealous, summoning jabs about how Corey is harming the band. But secretly, Wes envies Corey.
Ash becomes cold toward Corey, then warmer toward Wes.
They travel more and abandon Ash’s costly SUV. They buy a seedy Honda Accord because they suspect the police are looking for the SUV since the boys are runaways.
On To Louisiana
They stay at an older woman’s house in Louisiana, and she hosts a family dinner. Ash and Wes sleep in the same bed, causing Wes to stay awake most of the night due to an irreconcilable “boner.”
In the morning, Wes hears the older woman calling the police on them, so they flee the house, gathering their equipment. Wes flicks off the breaker so the woman can’t call the police again, but her husband holds them at the point of a shotgun. They promise they didn’t steal anything and drive away anyway.
They end up in a dive bar in Mississippi.
Corey has a temper tantrum onstage that manifests itself as a series of rogue drum solos. So the bartender, “Cookie,” joins onstage as lead singer and he is, Wes admits, a better musician than they are.
Cookie invites the trio to his dad’s house, which is a large mansion and recording studio perpetually filled with musicians and their family members.
Everyone is smoking marijuana. A girl named ShaeAnne convinces Wes to smoke marijuana, and the drug plagues him with self-loathing thoughts.
Wes saves Corey from a haphazard attempt at suicide.
Wes then seeks privacy with ShaeAnne so they can have sex, but in a stoned stupor they end up having sex four times with only one condom and within earshot of other people in the large, open-design house.
Wes’ First Time
It was Wes’ first time having sex, and the book describes it in minute detail.
“The moment she put me inside her I came,” reads the text. “I mean the exact moment.”
The three friends go to a reputable blues bar with Cookie to play an opening act for a well-known artist. But Ash gets cold feet and at the last minute tells the boys she will be playing a duo act with Cookie, not them.
Corey abandons his friends, taking the Accord, to reunite with his parents.
Wes stays to wait for Ash because he doesn’t trust Cookie.
Resolution, Kind Of
An angry man with a gun comes to the bar to confront Cookie because Cookie doesn’t take care of the man’s sister, with whom he shares a child.
The angry man tries to take Ash hostage, but Wes headbutts the man in the nose and the pair flee. They wander along the highway, and Corey comes to their rescue. Corey reveals that he had sweet-talked his way back into the bar and retrieved their instruments.
The three are friends and the sexual tension has abated.
Ash takes them to her guitar teacher’s home, but the teacher calls the police.
Just when the trio have dialed in their sound and their complicated relationships with one another, their parents and the police arrive. Their parents are furious. For Wes, that’s a relief, because his parents have always been distant.
Ash goes off to live in France as a condition of her not being “cut off” from the family wealth.
Corey and Wes remain friends but aren’t allowed at each other’s houses.
In the end, the three cut tracks together by recording their own lines and emailing them to one another.
Sadism Humor, Bestiality
There are many controversial themes within the book. For example:
The boys’ humor involves jokes about harming their “dicks.”
“specifically i (sic) had to go to the reception desk and unload an entire clip of staples into the side of my dick,” says Corey, in a crass attempt at verbalizing how excited he was about a new favorite song.
“right in that side part. a classic gambit,” responds Wes. The book’s dialogue occurs with names and colons signifying attribution, as in a written play. The author forfeits sentence case and most punctuation in the dialogue.
Ash gives the boys advice on how to give oral sex, and how not to.
Nearly every page contains profanity, including “fuck,” “shit” and “dick.” There also are instances of “bitch,” “jizz” and “cooz.”
Wes masturbates into the sink on two occasions. Corey chastises Wes after the first occasion, for not rinsing all of his bio matter out of the sink.
One of the band’s favorite songs is titled, “If you love your dog so much, why don’t you fuck him.” The lyrics taunt the listener with the prospect of giving oral sex to a dog.
Wes, as narrator, has imaginary conversations with God that would be considered blasphemous in multiple monotheistic religions. For example, in one conversation, Wes imagines God apologizing to him for God’s prior actions.
“He was like, GUYS, MY BAD ABOUT ALL THAT STUFF BEFORE,” the book reads, describing an imaginary statement from God to Wes. “I’M SORRY ABOUT THE ASH-COREY HOOKUP SITUATION. I REALLY WAS ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL WITH THAT ONE.”
All three characters use the deity’s name as a profane word.
On two occasions, Corey gets so drunk that he vomits repeatedly.
An anonymous member complained about “The Haters” in an Aug. 7 post to the Sweetwater #1 District Accountability Facebook group.
There were 22 comments on the post as of Wednesday, with most of them from outraged parents, but occasional counterpoints from people who compared the outrage to a book-banning effort.
“The school is not providing alcohol to our children, the school is not providing tobacco to our children, yet pornography is so terribly addictive, and it IS being provided to our children in the form of ‘literature,’” wrote one commenter, DonaJane Stauffer.
Chris Jereb, another commenter using apparent sarcasm, wrote, “Ban all the books!!!”
Jereb followed up with: “sorry I can’t take anything seriously when the (post) author hides behind the anonymous. If they have such a problem with it why hide.”
Sweetwater County School District No. 1 leadership did not immediately respond Wednesday to a Cowboy State Daily email seeking comment.
Clair McFarland can be reached at Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com.