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 was a powerful and riveting debut novel that was nearly impossible to put down. I have never read anything about a school shooting before and I know this will be extremely eye opening to teenagers everywhere.
Valerie's boyfriend, Nick, brought a gun to school and opened fire in the school Commons. He targeted those on the "Hate List" he and Val had created. A list of people that bullied them or they just didn't like. Valerie had no idea Nick- a school shooting. When she couldn't stop him any other way, Val dove in front of one of Nick's targets and ended up being shot herself. One thing is certain- Val's life will never be the same.
I wasn't sure if I was going to connect with, or even like, Valerie, but I ended up feeling for her a lot. Her struggles were heartbreaking and it was sad to see how her family, friends, and the rest of the world turned on her. So many people believed she should have died that terrible day and on top of dealing with her own guilt and emotions, she must face the fact that she is starting school in the fall. There were a lot of characters introduced in Hate List and all of them played a key role in shaping the story, even if it was in just a small way. Dr. Heiler stood out to me a lot and he really changed Val's life for the better- he was one of those people that believed in Valerie and worked her through the toughest months.
The novel alternated between different times. From the day of the shooting, to memories Val had of her and Nick, to the present. It really helped develop the story and allow the readers to get to know the person behind the shooting and how Val truly didn't realize what was going to happen.
Jennifer Brown's debut novel was complex and unique, heartbreaking and emotional, and, also, hopeful. She made me feel so much while reading this and she didn't hold back with writing what needed to be said.
All in all, I highly recommend picking up Hate List if you haven't already. This novel will surely impact every person who reads it in some way and I am anxious to read Brown's sophomore novel (Bitter End) as soon as possible.
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars
September 1, 2009/Little Brown and Co/408 Pages/Young Adult
Other books by this author: Bitter End