>> Monday, December 28, 2009
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Genre: YA Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Challenges: Support Your Local Library Challenge #55
The Short Version:
Stop whatever you’re doing, go get this book and read it. Now.
Why I Read It:
I wasn’t sure I wanted to read another book about the aftermath of a school shooting but Galleysmith’s Review raved so much about this one that I just had to give it a try. I’m so very glad I listened and read this one. It’s excellent.
Valerie Leftman is going back to school for her senior year. This is big because last May, her boyfriend went on a shooting spree and killed and injured several students and teachers. Valerie was shot in the leg as she tried to stop him just before he turned the gun on himself. It turned out that many of the people Nick shot were on a ‘hate list’ that Valerie and Nick had kept in a notebook. To Val it was harmless venting, but to Nick it was clearly more serious.
Valerie is struggling with a lot of things. Is she a hero for stopping Nick or is she an accomplice for keeping the “hate list’? Should she be back at school? Valerie’s family life was strained before the shooting, and it’s not any better now. Her parents seem to be both wanting to help her and blaming her all at the same time.
I thought this book was just excellent. Told from Valerie’s viewpoint it takes place both in present time as she struggles with her return to school and in flashbacks as she remembers both the day of the shootings and her relationship with Nick before that fateful day. She’s looking at everything with new eyes now as she wonders if she should have seen this coming and struggles with her own guilt and culpability. When she returns to school she doesn’t know where she belongs. Her old friends don’t know how to respond to her presence and while the girl Valerie stopped Nick from shooting appears to want to be friends, Val is suspicious.
I liked that the story is told by Val. Nick (as seen though her eyes) is not the purely evil killer many see him to be. Her conflicting feelings are well written as are those of the other characters. Almost everyone in the book is someone I both liked and disliked. Val’s therapist is fabulous. My issues with the characters were Val’s Dad, in whom I struggled to find something redeeming and the art mentor who what just a touch too ‘out there’ for me.
Those are seriously minor quibbles, trust me. This book is one of the best I’ve read all year. The roller coaster of emotions and healing that Val, her family, and community go through is just as much of a roller coaster for the reader.
Yes, I cried my way through the end.