Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
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.
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.
Valerie's life comes crashing down when Nick, the guys she supposedly loved, opened fired in the school Commons. He shot Mr. Kline, he shot Ginny, he shot Chris, and lots of other people. And the reason? The Hate List; a list that Valerie and Nick created. The list that entangles Valerie into the investigation. The list that compromises her innocence. Most people say it's as good as killing them herself. When she goes back to school, after six long months, she is greeted with cold stares and evil glares. She is known as the girl who helped kill those eight people. Her nickname really comes alive; Sister Death. But what will you do if you were in her place? What would you do if you really are innocent?
Every once in a while, there's a book that will completely stand out and blow up in your face. Hate List is a book that utterly does that.
School shootings aren't that uncommon these days. We hear more and more incidents concerning deaths caused by open fire shooting at schools. Hate List is a book that deals with the post-trauma of the incident. Through Valerie's narrative, we navigate through everything that she has to deal with; the guilt, the misjudgments, the distrust. She is forced to recover amidst an atmosphere of hate and unjust predicaments presented to her unjustly by her peers and teachers.
Family plays a big role in Hate List. Most of the time, I resent Valerie's family for their distrust and disgust in her when she did nothing wrong. Nick was the one who shot people, not Valerie. Even though she helped with the list, she didn't mean for anything to happen. Don't we all say or do things we don't mean? Valerie's father was the one character who was supposed to be supportive; but instead, he says he will never forgive her. He is completely insensitive to everybody's feelings but his own.
Brown reveals what really happens in the shooting, through alternating tenses between the past and the present. Subtly, Brown hints at what Nick really plans to do while Valerie is oblivious--with love--to see the signs that his life is a downward spiral, leaking with death and quiet but deadly anger. Nick is like a bomb, ticking, and waiting to explode.
Emotional and completely powerful, Hate List is a solid, tragic, and unforgettable debut with messages about guilt, grief, and facing obstacles in the real world. Here, Jennifer Brown evokes poignant emotions and brings us on a journey that ultimately teaches us how to move on. A+ =)
The Bottom Line: Everyone should read this. Valerie makes hard-as-hell decisions that I could never make. Hate List is one of those novels that people will not hate at all; in fact, probably the opposite. It's not on my 'hate list'. It's on my 'love list'.
My reaction/enjoyment: 10/10
Total Score: 95/100 (A+)