Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown
Published: September 2009 by Little, Brown Books
My Rating: 5 stars
Tags: YA | Realistic | School Shooting
Includes: Profanity, Murder, Sensuality
First Lines: [From the Garvin County Sun-Tribune, May 3, 2008, Reporter Angela Dash] The scene in the Garvin High School cafeteria, known as the Commons, is being described as "grim" by investigators who are working to identify the victims of a shooting spree that erupted Friday morning.
Valerie and her boyfriend Nick were always outcasts at school, not fitting in a certain group. So they started a "Hate List", basically a list of names and things that they hated. To Valerie, it was just a way to express her frustration of being bullied, but to Nick? It was a list of people for him to kill. Near the end of their junior year, Nick opens fire in the cafeteria, kills six students and injures many more. Valerie accidentally gets shot in the leg after jumping in front of a victim, and afterward Nick ends his own life with the gun. Even though Valerie wasn't the one who killed all of those students, it's what everyone else seems to think. Now, beginning her senior year at the same high school, Valerie must come to terms with what happened just a few months ago and learn to accept the past.
I honestly don't even know where to start. This riveting book was fascinating, absorbing, and so...raw. Obviously from the summary, it's not just a perky girly book to enjoy for the day - this one was really deep and emotional. It was depressing, but not to the point where the book wasn't enjoyable. Because as a reader, I got to see how much Valerie changed from the fragile person she was at the beginning, to the strong person at the end. I loved Valerie's character so much; she's on the list for my favorite fictional teens! Since she was Nick's girlfriend and helped write the "Hate List", everyone - reporters, friends, even her family - consider her guilty. But she wasn't! It was so infuriating and frustrating having her family practically shun her since they thought she deliberately wanted those students at her school dead. I found myself literally yelling at the book at times, with tears down my face, because I couldn't stand how close-minded and unforgiving her parents were.
From Page 318
We drove on in silence, Dad shaking his head every few seconds disgustedly. I stared at him, wondering how it was that 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.
The character development was insane! I can't believe this is Jennifer Brown's debut novel; it seems like she's been writing books for years. Each character had a different identity and personality, and I got to know them so well. I could really connect with Valerie, and even to her murderous boyfriend surprisingly! I'm not saying it's acceptable to just go and shoot someone who you despise, but reading flashbacks from Valerie's perspective of all of the mean bullying they went through together, I could sort of understand why he did it. The novel is deeply powerful and heart-wrenching - Valerie's pain, loss, and loneliness is displayed so perfectly on the pages. The book held my attention, but I do think it was a little bit too long. I think it could have been shortened some.
It's a wonderful novel about self-discovery and coping. I'm sure there are endless other themes you could pick out from the writing, too. I really wish there were more books written by this author, because I would read them in a heartbeat. I recommend this book to anyone and everyone; it's a masterpiece that blew me away.
Cover Thoughts: I love it. The black and gray, blurry picture looks depressing and fits the mood of the book perfectly. And I like the teardrop effect. Overall, the cover for this book can't get much better than it already is!