Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Hate List is the story of Valerie Leftman, a girl who unknowingly and unwillingly becomes a vital part in a school shooting. Val created “The Hate List” – a list of all the people and things she and her boyfriend, Nick disliked. But Nick took it it a step further when he walked into their high school one morning with a gun and killed and wounded several students before killing himself. Hate List follows Val as she deals with the aftermath of being the shooter’s girlfriend, the creator of the list he used to kill people, and the “hero” who stopped the shooting by jumping in front of a girl and taking a bullet to the leg. Val has to deal with her parents failing relationship, her younger brother who just wants a normal life, and her former friends and enemies when she returns to school for her senior year. Luckily there are a few people in her life that help support and guide her during this crucial time.
Michelle from Gallysmith (she should feel special being mentioned two posts in a row) recommended this book to me. I don’t think I loved it quite as much as she did, but I did enjoy (if you can enjoy a book like this) it very much. When I first started reading it, I thought the first person narrative would be too much for me. I generally don’t like the use of first person in young adult novels (something about being trapped in teenagers heads), but once I got into the story, it was fine. I did have to put up with quite a few “likes” and “whatevers” but I can live with those. By the end of the novel, I was crying along with Val and truly wishing that she be able to move on with her life.
If this book is about any one thing, it is about relationships and how they change. Val loved Nick and still remembers all the good times they had together. She understandably has a hard time reconciling those memories with his status as a killer. Val’s father is increasingly absent from her life and she has to deal with letting him go and not trying to change things she can’t. Val’s mother constantly worries about her – what she might do to herself, to others, or what others might do to her daughter. Val’s relationship with her psychiatrist, her art teacher, her guidance counselor, and a former enemy are what get her through the following year.
I’ve never read a book about a school shooting before. I was a sophomore in high school when Colombine happened and I remember the fear and anxiety that took over even in my school thousands of miles away. And then we had a slew of other school shootings and somehow it became something that we legitimately had to worry about. Schools should be a safe place but because of the hatred that goes on in them, they aren’t. This book shows us how “little” things kids do to each other can add up and intensify to a deadly level.
I read most of this novel in one day and I read it very quickly. So I want to use the words like “compelling” and “page-turner” that I’m not supposed to use because that really is what this is. If you’re looking for a quick and intriguing (but not light) book, check out Hate List.
Some other reviews of Hate List (hint: they all rave about it):