Hate List

>> Monday, November 21, 2011

Author: Jennifer Brown
Recommended Age: Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN: 978-0-316-04145-4
Year Published: 2009
No. Pages: 408
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Main Character Gender: Female
Read & Reviewed by: Jenny

“I'll bet if you asked ten readers what 'Hate List' is about, they'd answer “It's about a school shooting.” But for me, 'Hate List' was never about a school shooting. From day one, this was always Valerie's story.”

As Jennifer Brown writes in the author's note, this book was never about a school shooting. This story digs deep down into the life and emotions of the main character, Valerie Leftman, as she struggles with life after her boyfriend, Nick, opens fire, killing several people before shooting himself. An event that propels Valerie into an adventure of self-discovery.

Valerie and Nick created a hate list made up of people and things they hated. The victims of the shootings appeared to have been from this list. Now, five months later, Valerie is forced to face the very people who believe she's guilty, and confront the guilt she's feeling so that she can move on with her life. Getting over the loss of Nick is challenging, as is grappling with his actions and the community's reaction to both of them. Having parents who separate, in part as a reaction to the shootings, just contributes to the troubles Valerie is having. Going back to face her school pushes her to realize that she'll just have to move on, but everyone seems to want to hold her back.

Hate List is a realistic fiction novel about overcoming grief, guilt, and the pressures of the world. It is also about being painted into an inescapable corner by your peers and family. I really enjoyed this story because it was told in first person from Valerie's point of view, so I could connect with her thoughts and feelings. She's a very relatable character, an outcast, but a good person. She could have just easily been one of my own friends.

Brown had made Valerie's personality and the entire situation seem so genuine that it was all very realistic to me. The subject matter is undoubtedly mature, but it was straight forward and powerful. The book alternates between the day of the shooting, the early day's of Valerie and Nick's relationship, and when she returns to school. In this form, I got to understand the bond the couple had, experience the rush of constant emotions at the school, while the horror of the incident stayed fresh in my mind.

The list was specifically made for venting out Valerie's frustrations, something myself and any young teen can relate to. We can associate with strained relationships with our parents, and the continual struggle to figure out who we are. Luckily for Valerie, she has the help of a therapist and begins to move on with her life.

I rated this nine out of ten, because the overall book was amazing, but I found some parts, such as every time Valerie randomly complained about how much her leg hurt, unnecessary. I was kept in suspense for most of the book but it took me roughly a week to read it. The reality of this happening is likely, and this story shows the cruelty and desperation that is sometimes possible in the real world. For that reason, I would recommend this read to someone who has a higher level of maturity.

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