So much hate
... so much hate ...
So... The Hate Project by Kris Ripper.
This book destroyed me.
In a good way.
In the best way.
It's the second book in a series, but you can totally read it solo. The Love Study, which comes first chronologically, is a perfectly enjoyable book which may speak to someone else's soul the way The Hate Project speaks to mine... I've re-read it like four times since I first read it... a month ago. So, you know, it has very clearly taken up residency in my brain, and heart, and soul and I don't think it will ever truly leave me.
For example, this weekend I fixed my own dishwasher (I KNOW RIGHT?!) and all I could think was the scene in this book where Jack is high on his own phenomenal-ness which is, of course, one of my favorite scenes.
The Hate Project involves Oscar (a grouch) and Jack (an ass) which is just kinda cute, but their relationship is amazing. They're sort of mutual-friend/frenemies (see The Love Study and The Life Revamp (book 3, still on my TBR so look elsewhere for the review on that one, I'm too busy rereading The Hate Project again) for more of their very excellent friendgroup, the Motherfuckers) who start a casual thing that *shocker* gets less casual. It's full of bickering and play-fighting and some truly iconic banter. I can't call it enemies to lovers because there's never really hate, but it gets all the good feelings that an enemies-to-lovers gives you and some really compelling banter, character development, and they run the gamut from a pity fuck to making love... basically all the things that make a good romance good romance.
I will say, I have been told by some friends who have read it, that this book may not be for everyone- Oscar is depressed and anxious, in the clinical sense of both, and deals with issues with his mental health and his meds in a way that is very real and beautiful and which I really loved and appreciated, but some of my friends found it hard to read at times. I guess if you're not anxious and depressed yourself it can be jarring or upsetting to be thrown into that headspace. Which, to me, just says that the author did a great job of portraying those feelings because they made their reader feel them and for me that makes me feel seen and identify with a romantic lead in a way I don't always connect with characters whose brains don't function so similarly to my own.
One of the things I like best about The Hate Project is that Oscar is going through a lot during this book, and so is Jack, but they are going through very different things and it seems pretty clear that Jack does not have the personal experience of depression or anxiety or what its like to be changing up your meds. It's not a thing that people talk about a lot, especially the way that changing your meds can mess with your head and body before (and/or while) they *hopefully* make you "better." Despite his lack of personal experience though, Jack handles Oscar's very blunt statements about his meds and his mental health perfectly. It's all just very frank and open and matter of fact, and Jack just rolls with it when Oscar's meds/mental health throw a curve ball, so long as Oscar is able to communicate what's going on with him. And I'm not saying Oscar has to bare his soul, or whatever, but he says things like "my meds are fucking me up" and that makes him horny or not horny or angry or suicidal, etc. and then they have sex or don't have sex or talk about something else accordingly.
It's just really lovely to see.
I also really really love the way the author deals with Oliver's body image issues. Oliver describes his issues so perfectly and so succinctly pretty early on when he says, "My body doesn't fill me with endless self-loathing or anything (just the regular amount of self-loathing)." It's just... so.... perfect... and I love that what he dislikes about his body is precisely what Jack likes about it, and the way that they interact around that. There's a great scene I don't want to spoil because it is just so great but I hope you read this book and when you get to that you're like YES ENTHUSIASTIC CONSENT I KNOW JUST WHAT JILL WAS TALKING ABOUT.
Anyway, food... there's a few good meals in here, but the thing that as I read this I thought "yes, blog this one" was a very cute scene where Jack's grandmother asks Oscar to stay for dinner, and after dinner they have brownies, warmed in the microwave, served with caramel swirl ice cream. I love Oscar’s internal dialogue about whether to stay for desert, his internal war between loving desert and hating his body, his internal debate about why he wants to stay for desert at all.
So, I made some really simple brownies, served with caramel swirl ice cream from the grocery store. Which was hard for me because I really wanted to make my own caramel swirl ice cream but this was so specifically described as not being fancy that I didn't want to fuck with what Oscar clearly respected about just a tub of caramel swirl ice cream.
I used Mark Bittman's brownies recipe, which is below with my comments and very very minimal tweaks. I found this recipe on the New York Times website, but it's also available on Mark Bittman's website.
I like these brownies because they're fudgey, with a good shell on top, and they don't have any fucking nuts in them. I swear I looked at like 10 recipes and almost all of them called for pecans or walnuts, and while I like both, I do not want them in my brownies unless you're doing like a pecan pie brownie or something fun, not just some chopped up nuts distracting from the perfectly good chocolatiness. As my dad would describe it, I'm a purist.
They're also really easy. If you're someone who regularly bakes, you'll have all the ingredients on hand already and the whole thing can be done with a bowl and a pot and no special equipment. I did use my stand mixer, because it was out and thus easier than getting out a big mixing bowl, but you could absolutely do this just as easily in a mixing bowl.
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, plus a little more for greasing the pan
- I greased mine with some spray coconut oil cuz I’m very lazy.
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
- I like the Baker’s brand which come in little squares that are each labeled as 1/4 oz. So cute and easy and you can just break them up by hand and it's fine!
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mark Bittman says this is optional, I say it is only optional in so far as you can use something instead of vanilla, but because these are such a simple recipe, I think you want *SOMETHING* and also, if using vanilla, using *good* vanilla extract will make a difference here. You could also swap it for any other flavor you like- some strong coffee or instant espresso would be lovely; almond extract is a particular favorite of mine; peppermint extract goes nicely with chocolate, especially in the winter and maybe with some crushed up candy canes on top; orange, raspberry, hazelnut, etc. liquors would all also be lovely flavor swaps to give a hint of something extra to the brownies, but whatever you choose, choose something.
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease a square baking pan with butter or line it with 2 overlapping pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil and grease the lining.
- I greased mine, as I said, with spray can coconut oil. I also have a pan specifically for brownies/bars which I will show you pictures of later. It's not by any means necessary, but I won't lie that I kind of love it.
- Combine the stick of butter and the chocolate in a small saucepan over very low heat, stirring occasionally. When the chocolate is just about melted, remove the saucepan from the heat and continue to stir until the mixture is smooth.
- He says you can microwave it. If you do that, you could make this all in one bowl, but since you're using unsweetened chocolate I'd be very hesitant because it's going to burn quickly and bitterly if you do it that way.
- Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and stir in the sugar.
- Then beat in the eggs, one at a time.
- Gently stir in the flour, salt, and the vanilla (or other flavoring)
- Pour and scrape the mixture into the prepared pan.
- I have this pan specifically for brownies, with this fabulous insert that pre-cuts the brownies and makes the inner ones not all the way cooked like the edges the way I hoped it would (the edges are still superior) but it does makes them all neat and perfect.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until just barely set in the middle. Cool on a rack until set. If you used parchment, lift it out to remove the brownies. If not, cut them in squares right in the pan.
- I use this pre-cut insert thingy, which, again, though not perfect, I do not regret purchasing.
Deeply chocolatey, fudgey, perfectly lovely brownies.
Serve warm with a big scoop of unfussy caramel swirl ice cream.
Enjoy with a side of the even more delicious frenemies-to-lovers story that inspired them.