Valerie Leftman had the seemingly perfect boyfriend. She had dreams of going to college, a decent relationship with her little brother and even found high school tolerable. Well, that is, except for the people she hated. Turns out, Nick hated them too and so they decided to make a list, to keep track of those they hated the most–the HATE LIST. Valerie had no clue that it would be the worst idea they’d ever had or how that list would come back to haunt her. You see, Nick had other plans for that list and the people on it. It’s possible that Nick had other plans for himself and Valerie too. But, Val would never know for certain. Many of her questions would never be answered. The boy she loved and thought she knew better than anyone came to school one day and open fired on the names on the HATE LIST before Valerie or anyone could stop him. Something like that can really do a number on a person and Valerie is all kinds of messed up as a result. Unfortunately for her, she cannot hide in her room forever and is forced to return to school–to face the students who blame her for Nick’s actions; some of whom where on the HATE LIST.
Valerie is torn between overwhelming guilt not only for what Nick did but because she still depserately loves and needs him. She is angry, alone, afraid and ashamed. High School is hard enough without the extra added bonus of fear, loathing and concern for one’s saftey when away from home for the majority of the day. Valerie returns to school to find a completely different school–reminiscent of a police state set in motion by the actions of her boyfriend. She has missed out on so much. She must decide if the world that has continued to move on around her is a world she wants to live in. Jennifer Brown, a self-professed ‘funny girl’ has created a well-crafted story that is emotionally exhausting to read. When you are in Valerie’s world, you feel the drag of her emotions. I was literally tired and down-trodden when reading this book–yet contiually interested in what was going to happen next. I was intrigued by the story. The notion of loving someone who was capable of horror and chaos was intriguing in and of itself. As an adult, I was concerned for Valerie’s well-being and didn’t understand at first why her parents didnt take a more active role in her recovery. I suppose by the end I realized that it is becasue as parents we don’t always have the answers and in this case (or one like it) professionals are better equipped to handle them.
Overall I wouldn’t say I enjoyed HATE LIST because I was emotionally drained from reading it–but that I liked it, a lot. I highly recomend it. That Jennifer had the courage to take such a sensitive topic like a school shooting and a romantic involvement with the actual shooter and create a story around it–I applaud her. She was able to humanize Nick in a way that never justified what he did and capture real and raw emotions of a teen wrestling with suicide and post traumatic disorders. HATE LIST is well-written and Jennifer is indeed a talented storyteller. I liked the use of journalist style reporting in the begining of the chapters to give background information on each of the students on the HATE LIST. It was quite creative. I am definitely interested in reading more stories by Jennifer Brown.
Parental Warning: Teen gun violence, Teen suicide considerations
ABOUT HATE LIST
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick opened fired on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to save him, Valerie inadvertedly saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend 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 available from Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 1, 2009