05 May 2012

Violence 101

by Denis Wright

black dog books. Young Adult. Paperback RRP $16.99

Reviewed by Barbara Brown

Hamish Graham is highly intelligent and from a stable and loving home life. Hamish is fourteen and most detention centres have expelled or rejected him. So why is Hamish committed to the harshest juvenile detention centre in New Zealand?

Hamish Graham is extremely violent. By the age of ten he had killed an old man. In Hamish’s words “It was my fault that he fell into the water, because I pushed him, but it was not my fault that he hit his head on the way down…”

There is always another side of Hamish’s sensational actions and so when the head of the detention centre suggests that Hamish write a journal, he is only too happy to oblige. And so begins the self analysis of Hamish Graham.

Violence 101, the Psychology of Violence, is the subject that Hamish wrote to the Minister of Education about, including a suggested course outline and achievement standard. He also thought that it should be compulsory. He feels that violence is treated as a taboo subject whereas most great men in history were very violent. Leaders of great war campaigns, Hamish feels, would all be locked up in detention centres in peace times due to their violent natures.

Violence 101 is written with both sides of the story being told, the teachers at their weekly meetings and Hamish’s through his journal entries. You even tend to side with Hamish and his crazy thoughts at times. But when something happens that turns everyone’s lives upside down, you start to see the glimmer of a strange but intelligent young man.

Although this is a genre for young adults, especially teenage boys, adults will find it an eye opener into the mind of a violent child. A must read.

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