Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Came out: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Age Group: Young Adult
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.
Jennifer Brown has a refreshing writing style that makes you fully connect with the characters and immerse yourself into the story. Sad and compelling, Hate List is sure to be talked about. For once, we have the story of a high school shooting from the shooter's friends' lives. You see how it affected them and how they are both horrified at what he has done, but they remember the good things about him.As Valerie says later in the book, "I know what he did, but is it wrong that I love him?" because she was Nick's girlfriend. You find yourself horrified and strangely intrigued, simply thinking about the endless grief that fills this book. And, at the beginning of some chapters, are "news articles" about the victims and the shooting.Valerie is ostracized. Half of the people in her town hate her because Nick and her had always talked about who they hated, and death. They blame her. The other half think that she is a hero because she stepped in front of a girl to save her life and ended the shooting.It was so interesting seeing the other side. It was a really sad book, but it was so powerful. You found yourself horrified at the remarks people said to Valerie, and dwell on what if that happened to you?Conflicting emotions are the backbone of this book: grief, guilt, love, anger, horror. They fill this book so completely that I simply had to finish this book in one marathon read. Not wanted to, but had to.I loved the characters. The lines became blurred. Valerie's parents both love her and are horrified that she involuntarily played a role in the shooting. Nick and her had made a "Hate List" of people and things that made them tick. Nick's victims were from that list.This is one of those topics that nobody really wants to talk about. But Jennifer Brown takes a unique view of high school shootings and weaves it into an incredible story that will not leave you. Once you read this, it's on your favorites list for life.Recommended for anybody who loves: Girl Overboard; Bitter End; The Sky is Everywhere; Before I Fall; Such a Pretty Girl; etc,.Possible book club questions:Was Valerie really so wrong in making the list? A lot of people say things about people/things that they hate. Discuss.How did the Hate List spiral out of control?What do you think Nick's other friends thought of it?Valerie receives a medal for her "heroism". Why do you think some of the teachers refused to sign it?Valerie's parents are conflicted. Her father hates her, and her mother loves her. Although, her mother says "all I can see is the person who tore my family apart." How can this statement change the rest of Valerie's life?Do you think this will make anybody look at friend/family members of shooters with any more sympathy?Nick's mother said that she lost a son too, and it was still grief for her. How do you think this will shape her mental health?Some books paint psychologists in a negative light. How is Valerie's painted in a positive? Discuss.