Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Published September 1st, 2009
Published by: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
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
Hate List is an extremely powerful and compelling story, one which I would recommend to all ages.
The novel follows the character of Valerie as she returns to school, five months after her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria, killing and injuring many of their fellow students.
Although Valerie herself was injured defending another student, she is still somewhat implicated because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick used to pick his targets.
I honestly felt for Valerie throughout the whole book. She was always prone to second guessing herself, never certain if she somehow indirectly coerced Nick into doing what he did, but at the same time battling with her feelings for him.
It almost seems expected by those around her that she should hate Nick, but no one takes a second to realise that they were in love, and that is something that doesn’t die within a few months. It’s almost as if no one realises that she is grieving for not only Nick but also the people he murdered, Valerie will always be one of those characters that I feel sorry for because it is like she can’t win… all she ever wanted was for her and Nick to be accepted but sadly Nick wasn’t as strong as her.
Hate List reminded me a lot of my own high school experience. No, we didn’t have a killer at my school, but isn’t every school the same? The kids who walk around thinking they are better than everyone else even though others have done nothing to deserve the way they are treated. I was bullied in high school, and looking back I realise that it was always ‘acceptable’ for those who were popular to belittle someone that wasn’t in the same social group… almost as if it was the norm.
Through the use of flashbacks Brown creates a story that is emotionally driven and very relatable. The flashbacks really allow you to see the incident through Nick’s perspective who after years of taunting and abuse pretty much just cracks, I do not think his actions can ever be justified but they can definitely be understood… you might think I am crazy for even slightly defending him but being a victim of bullying, I know that not everyone is strong enough to get through it.
I loved watching Valerie’s journey to redemption from the beginning of the story to the end. She is such a strong girl and watching her get even stronger was really beautiful :
Overall, Hate List is a well written story and an obvious 5*, as it touches upon real issues that at some point I think everyone can relate to.