AUTHOR Jennifer Brown
PUBLICATION September 1, 2009 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
READ June 17 - 20, 2012
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.Hate List by Jennifer Brown was a book that I wanted to read because I can remember the Columbine shooting so vividly and I can remember feeling so affected by the incident just because I was a high school student myself. I remember walking down the hallways for months afterward watching all the bullying going on around me and thinking "that could happen here." There were so many kids at my school that were bugged relentlessly, that would walk down the hallway and avoid eye contact by staring at the floor just trying to make it without incident to their next class. I have said it so many times before but I'm going to say it again, high school is a scary place that's full of hate.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
Jennifer Brown has excellently portrayed the dirty high school politics in this novel. I felt like I was brought back to that time and watching the bullying happening right before my eyes. Valerie broke my heart so many times throughout, she had it so rough at school as well as at home. She was full of anger when she made the hate list, and she made it just to have an outlet for that anger. For her that's all it was, an outlet, but for her boyfriend Nick it was so much more, it was a list of potential targets. The relationships portrayed in Hate List are so hard to read, I didn't agree with most people but I understood how they would feel the way that they did.
Valerie's parents were the worst for me, they were in no way supportive of their daughter. It was difficult for me to believe, because I at least come from a family where a conversation would be had. Her parents jumped to some pretty damning conclusions and were quite cold to her after she went through the shooting. I can see their motives for feeling that way, and maybe there are some parents out there like that, but I didn't believe it and the whole thing made me really mad. They were terrible parents living in a loveless marriage and I hated them. A LOT.
Hate list is very character driven, it is all about people dealing with the shooting and learning from it. One thing that I really wanted out of this, that I don't feel I got enough of was Nick's feelings & motives. I wanted to get inside his head a little more to see what made him tick. I liked the approach Jennifer took at conveying the story, we have the present day which is Valerie dealing with going back to school after the shooting, and we have the past which tells us the story of the shooting and the days following. Interspersed with those two timeframes are newspaper articles from the local newspaper. It was all very emotional and left me feeling pretty depressed, but I feel it's a very gritty, realistic approach to a really tough subject.