Book review: The Haters by Robyn Harding

Saturday, July 6, 2024 Permalink

The Haters by Robyn Harding takes readers into the world of books and publishing. It’s something Harding would know well of course, given her profession. And this new release reflects the good, the bad and the ugly of that world – albeit with an underlying agenda spurring online trolling and bullying.

I’ve seen similar things play out on social media. A negative review and a defensive author striking out, only to then have the reviewer’s supporters (or grumpy people in general) heap onto the author. Or vice versa… an author reacting badly to a negative but fair and very very subjective review (which all reviews are, of course). **We humans are complicated walking talking animals resplendent with baggage from life experiences and our own thoughts, feelings and behaviour, so our perception of anything is personal and tainted by all that’s come before.**

Book review: The Haters by Robyn HardingThe Haters
by Robyn Harding
Published by Simon and Schuster
on 09/07/2024
Source: Simon & Schuster
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1761427458
Pages: 352

Camryn Lane is living her dream. After years of struggle and rejection, her first novel has finally been published. Her editor is happy; her teenage daughter is proud; and her boyfriend and friends are all excited for her. She’s on top of the world—until she receives a disturbing message from an unknown sender.

Rattled by the accusations she finds there, Camryn swallows the sick feeling in her stomach and resolves to put the missive out of her mind. But when she checks her ratings on a popular book site, she finds a scathing one-star review. The reviewer is so articulate and convincing that soon, Camryn’s book is flooded with bad reviews.

As the online harassment creeps into Camryn’s personal life, she vows to find out who’s behind it. Is it really a disgruntled reader? Or could it be someone she knows? The troll’s actions are escalating, and when the abuse turns deadly, it will take everything Camryn has to unmask the enemy so intent on destroying her—and finally learn why she's being targeted.

Camryn is a likeable lead and she works hard to have a good relationship with her daughter Liza, her ex (with whom she shares custody) and his new wife. We spend a bit of time with Liza, who’s a high achiever and about to head to college. We also spend some time with Camryn at her job as a school counsellor and meet some of her more challenging students. And then there’s her partner of two years Theo (nine years Camryn’s junior), who wants them the move in together.

Camryn’s publishing deal and book launch are supposed to be a stepping stone to a full-time writing career and a moment to celebrate but she’s horrified by accusations that she’s based her book on confidential discussions with her students. She’s advised not to speak out in her own defence or engage at all. But things get worse and Camryn learns more and more about the world of trolls and online vigilantism.

The response to her book seems extreme and very personal so it seems obvious there’s more at play and readers will wonder whether one of Camryn’s inner circle is responsible, or a jealous writing group friend.

Camryn’s ordeal is interposed by chapters of her novel – about a young woman who killed her mother’s abusive partner (as a teenager), became somewhat of a murky underworld ladyboss, before remaking herself and marrying a politician.

I did wonder if we needed the excerpts from her novel as they don’t seem relevant, but it does give context as Camryn is able to defend herself saying the behaviour of her characters is far more extreme than the students with whom she works.

There is – of course – a bit at play here about the evils of social media – including bullying, trolling and doxing. Noting though that those responsible can be as toxic and manipulative in-real-life.

This plays out in a realistic way rather than a particularly satisfying one, a reminder that we don’t always get a happy ending and all we can hope for is an ending at all.

The Haters by Robyn Harding was published in Australia by Simon & Schuster in early July 2024.

I received an advance copy from the publisher for review purposes. 


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