People hate. That’s our reality.
Book: Hate List
Author/Authoress: Jennifer Brown
It’s different. But I like it. I don’t usually go for covers that have so few shades in them (black grey and one colour- blue) but for some reason I like this cover. I think it may have to do with the fact that the cover is the kind of art the main character Valarie would appreciate. It’s the kind of art that she would draw herself. The cover represents confusion, grief and just a little bit of depression. All three of which are in the book
“You may not have pulled the trigger, but you helped cause the tragedy.”
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.
The plot is amazing. I’m serious. I have never read anything like this. Maybe part of the reason this book is so good is because of the narrator. Jennifer chose a girl who was close to the shooter and partially responsible (in everyone’s eyes) for the shooting. Not only does this book focus on the tragedy, but it also focuses on the aftermath. After all, who could be a more compelling narrator than the girl who dated the shooter and inspired him to start the shooting but was completely horrified by the shooting and willing to sacrifice herself to stop it? This book is powerful and thought-provoking. How exactly is guilt doled out and who deserves it? It also deals with major issues like suicidal tendencies, forgiveness and bullying.
This book had a really strong set of characters. The setting jumps back and forth between the actual shooting, pre-shooting and the aftermath. Valerie was a good narrator who was able to really bring out the character of her parents, ex and friends through flashbacks. Her guilt is the most overpowering emotion in the novel. Her trust in herself is shaken and she wonders how she didn’t see it coming.
The relationship between Valeries’s parents is strained and their relationship with Valerie is also somewhat strained. Her father, who was kind of an absentee after the divorce, becomes even more distant after the shooting. He blames her for starting the shooting and in the process not only ending several lives but ruining his.
“We drove on in silence, Dad shaking his head in disgust every few minutes. I stared at him, wondering how it was we got to this place. How the same man who held his infant daughter and kissed her tiny face could one day be so determined to shut her out of his life, out of his heart. How, even when she reacyhed out to him in distress – Please, Dad, come get me, come save me – all he could do was accuse her. How that same daughter could look at him and feel nothing but contempt and blame and resentment, because that’s all that radiated off of him for so many years and it had become contagious.”
Yeah, not a nice guy at all. Her mother on the other hand blames herself. A part of her keeps wondering if it was partially her fault that Valerie got involved in the shooting and with Nick at all. She constantly worries for Valeries mental health, fearing suicidal tendencies. And you can tell how much her mom’s opinion counts for Valerie by her reaction when she realises that her mother is no longer only tries to protect her from being hurt by the outside world, but also to protect the outside world from being hurt by Valerie. The psychiatrist is the most important adult character in this book. He gives Valerie the courage to move on past her guilt and start living her life. Throughout the book he’s supportive and offers little tokens of advice. Her crazy, whimsical, eccentric art teacher plays a similar role in the book and teaches Valerie to express her emotions.
The high school students in this book are immensely complex too. There’s Jessica, the ex-bully who’ life Valerie saved. She makes a conscious effort to reach out to Valerie throughout the book. I think she’s the only one in the entire novel who doesn’t blame Valerie for the shooting at all. At one point in the book she wonders if she had tried being nicer to Nick, would the whole chain reaction of events leading to the tragedy have been stopped?
But I think the character who walks away with the prize for the most complex character is Nick. Everyone is surprised when he turns up at school with a gun in hand. No one ever thought he was violent. But one day he snaps and takes the list that he and his girlfriend of people they hated. And he tries shooting everyone on it.
The violent persona we keep hearing about juxtaposes with Valerie’s memorise of Nick. She makes an effort to differentiate between the violent, shooter Nick and her Nick. Her Nick is the kind of guy who purposely lost to let her win, was obsessed with death and even more obsessed with Shakespeare. She wonders where the two started to blend. At the end she and Nick’s best friend conclude that they didn’t know when he decided to shoot up the school because Nick himself never knew.
Yeah, I’ve come up with a new section to put in my reviews. Over here I’ll tell you what I think about the ending and I’ll give you fair warning if there’s a cliffhanger. So, since this is not a series obviously there is no cliffhanger. That being said I feel that everything wraps up too perfectly at the end. The parents of the victims forgive her, most of the students forgive her, her friends forgive her and she forgives herself. And she decides to take a trip. Everything feels a little…overdone. Like this is the kind of story that you can say The End for.
Like always, Jennifer Brown can takes ensitive subjects like domestic violence, mental disabilities and terrorism amongst youth and present it tastefully without insulting anyone. There’s a strong anti-bullying sentiment in this novel (just like in most of her books). Thought provoking and profound, Hate List is the kind of book who’s message you cannot hate.
Okay, it was actually a 4.75 but I decided to round it up. Why? Because this book is awesome and awful at the same time. This book made me cry a lot. I mean A LOT. The ugly I-can’t-stop-and-why-did-this-have-to-happen variety. That’s what I mean by awful. But at the same time it was awesome too. I mean if it wrenched that many tears out of me, it means I seriously did have to care about the characters and the events taking place in the book. This book is an intensely emotional and profound read. It is definitely one book that every middle schooler, high schooler and adult needs to read. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it has replaced Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell as my favourite contemporary YA.