Hating Alison Ashley (novel)

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Hating Alison Ashley cover

Hating Alison Ashley is a 1984 Australian novel. (Puffin Books, London and Melbourne, ISBN 0-14-031672-8) Written by science fiction and children's author Robin Klein. Written as a pre-teen comedy, the book has a strong moral undercurrent about the pursuit of happiness and perfection, the pressures of growing up and the power of friendship. It portrays the agonies of school-girl rivalries, constant embarrassment by family, and painful and often brutally funny awkwardness and insecurity. One of Klein's most popular pre-teen novels, it has since become a standard English text for school students across Australia.

The book was nominated for 8 Australian literature awards and won the Young Australian Best Book Award (YABBA) in 1987 and the Kids Own Australian Literature Award (KOALA) in 2013.

It has since become a play, adapted by Richard Tulloch and directed by Nici Wood, and a film, Hating Alison Ashley directed by Geoff Bennett with Delta Goodrem in the title role.

Plot[edit]

Erica Yurken is a sixth-grade student, hypochondriac and compuslive liar who lives in the suburb of Barringa East, a low grade housing commission area. Erica views herself superior to everyone she knows, Andalusia as such is disgusted by her hometown, believing that she is set out for greater things in life. At the beginning of grade six, her new teacher Miss Belmont impresses Erica by taking charge of the school bully Barry Hollis and Erica's disruptive class, while also praising Erica and inflating her ego even more. However, Erica's belief that she is the most valuable student in the school is challenged when a more upscale housing estate is placed within the zoning area of Barringa East and a new student, Alison Ashley, is enrolled in Erica's class at Barringa East primary.

Alison Ashley impresses Erica at first by being beautiful, intelligent and dignified, qualities Erica felt that she herself possessed. At first, Erica is eager to become Alison's friend as she believes she has finally met an equal. However, she soon begins to realize that Alison's talents and grace exceed her own, and grows extremely jealous of her. Erica begins to compare her life to Alison's, lamenting that her family is common and that her life is cluttered, disorganized and unhealthy, while Alison is seen to have expensive belongings and a healthy, organised lifestyle. Erica begins to pick fights with her out of jealousy, accusing her of being a self-centered snob.

On many occasions, Alison appears to want to instigate a friendship, though Erica stubbornly turns her away out of spite and envy. Alison visits Erica's house, and after Erica's family humiliates her several times she accuses Alison of being judgmental and nosy. Shortly after, Erica finds Alison's belongings mixed up with hers and begrudgingly returns them to her, envious of Alison's luxurious house and clean living which is the polar opposite of her own. Though Alison attempts to be friendly and the girls, Erica unintentionally wakes up Alison's mother who has a demanding late-night job, and after she furiously asks Alison who is with her, Alison quickly says "No one," something Erica views as the ultimate indignity and causes her to once again refuse to speak to Alison.

The two girls are later placed in a cabin and group together on the annual grade six camp. Erica is once again outdone and thus infuriated by Alison Ashley, particularly in the camp play, where she is horrified to discover that she, having always dreamed of being an actress, suffers from stage fright while Alison displays skill as an actress and is cast in the lead role. On performance she can not bear to watch Alison take the spotlight and flees to her cabin, where she is touched to find that Alison has compiled the script that Erica wrote for the play into a book as a gesture of friendship. Erica also discovers that although Alison was in the lead role, her mother did not bother to attend the camp performance night as she cared little about her daughter, revealing to Erica that Alison was genuinely envious of her chaotic but warm family life and making Erica reconsider her disdain for her family. Erica and Alison reconcile and become friends.

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