Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: Hardcover; 405
Release Date: September 1, 2009
Intended Reading Group:
4 Keys to My Heart
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.
After closing the pages of this book, I couldn't stop thinking about it. My mind kept wandering back to Val and everything that she had been through. It's like this book opens up a part of you that is emotionally dormant, until you start to read. Hate List is by far one of the toughest books I've read this year, and yet I was completely invested in every single minute of it. All I can really say is, oh my goodness.
I think what really blew me away was that this particular book is from the point of view of Val. She isn't the shooter, she isn't necessarily a victim (although she is in a way), but instead she's even more than that. Val is the girlfriend, the confidant, the accessory (as people so blindingly label her) to the shooter. Watching things unfold through her eyes was heartbreaking. I'll admit that at first I was slightly frustrated with her. I couldn't seem to understand how she missed so many signs. However Jennifer Brown writes in a way that shows the reader different points of view, and I soon found that I was only seeing what was there because I was being allowed to. Does that make sense at all? Putting myself in Val's shoes, I can see why she missed those early signs.
What was truly heartbreaking though, were the relationships that were crushed in the wake of event. The two people in Val's life who should have been there for her, her parents, were so angry and almost heartless. As a reader, I saw a girl who had no one to really lean on. A girl who was struggling with something bigger than herself without any aid whatsoever. Let's put it this way my dear readers. If you are going to read this book, get a box of tissues. You might also want something to punch, because wow did parts of this make me angry. The writing on the pages is so emotional, so deep, that Hate List will cause you anger, sorrow, and the feeling of utter hopelessness all in one page.
School shootings are a tough subject to handle, but Jennifer Brown does it with the utmost grace and understanding. I got to see the emotions that rolled through each of the characters. I saw the bullying that went on and felt for those who were so fed up, so helpless, that they didn't know where to find an outlet. I walked with Val, as it happened, and sobbed for her. It was intense, it was amazing, it was so beautifully written. Jennifer Brown's Hate List is well worth your time. I'm not sure what else I can write to convince you of that. You'll need to experience it yourself to understand what I really mean.
FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.