Hate Mail (Orca Currents).
written by Monique Polak
Orca Book Publishers, 2014
978-1-45980-776-1 (he) $16.95
978-1-45980-775-4 (pb) $9-95
for Grades 5 to 8
Fiction / Prejudice / Courage / Family / Disability
Jordie is a quintessential young teen, obsessed with how he is viewed by his peers and with not being marked as different in any way. When his aunt and uncle move back to Montreal, Jordie is faced with his autistic cousin, Todd, attending his high school. Todd is different--he doesn't like to be touched, he "stimms" by scratching his armpits and is obsessed with all things aviation-related. Jordie does everything possible to distance himself from Todd at school, refusing to admit that they are related. Even when Todd is being bullied, he finds it nearly impossible to stand up for his cousin, instead becoming a bystander, watching Todd suffer. Then his aunt and uncle receive a hate-filled letter calling Todd a freak and suggesting he should be kept in a zoo. The letter precipitates a family crisis in which Jordie is forced to reflect on his own behaviour and to find the strength to stand up for Todd.
This book was written as part of a project called "Libres comme l'art" in which Polak worked as a writer-in-residence at Riverdale High School in Pierrefonds. Polak's collaboration with the students gives the story an authentic feel, eloquently capturing the attitudes of many teenagers toward issues of status, peer pressure, special needs and bullying. Inspired by a true story, this is a candid portrait of the struggle teens (and others of all ages) encounter when they are confronted with difference.
Polak delivers a powerful message about hate, prejudice and the power of acceptance and standing up for what is right. Written in an accessible style that never sacrifices the story, the book will appeal to young teens at a variety of reading levels.