Hamish is a very unusual boy. He is extremely violent, but he doesn’t have any of the risk factors people tend to associate with violent boys. He was raised by both parents in a loving, middle class home and he is extremely intelligent. Nevertheless, Hamish experiences no guilt and feels justified using violence for violence’s sake. His infatuation with old war heroes, like Alexander the Great, also plays somewhat of a strange role in his view of violence; Hamish feels that he would have been a great hero, too, if only he had been born in the right time and that people in today’s society underestimate the value of violence. The title (Violence 101) is actually the name of a class that Hamish suggests and describes within his journal.
Most of the story is told through the journal entries Hamish is required to write while living in a boy’s home in New Zealand. Details slowly unfold about the events in the past that led him to be placed in this specific home and, in between journal entries, readers are treated to narratives of the teachers’ and staff members’ reactions. While the journal device is nothing new, this book still has a unique feel to it. I found this story unsettling at times, but thought it was a very well-written and interesting look into the mind of a disturbed young man.