Jennifer Brown's site
Copy obtained: bought pb
Publisher: Little Brown
Released: Sept 2009
"The list was my idea. I didn't mean for anyone to die. Will you ever forgive me?"
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Val was as shocked as everyone else - but, despite her own serious injury, she's implicated in the crime because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick 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 the rocky relationships with her family, her 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.
There is a comment from the author in the back of this book which states that while most would say that this is a book about a school shooting, for her it's about Valerie, it's Val's story. And, having just finished and still in tears, I read that and went 'no kidding!' because that's exactly how I felt about it. Yes, it starts off about the shooting, but within a couple of chapters it wasn't about that for me, it was about a girl who loved, who had something terrible happen to her, and is lost in a sea of confusion and desperately trying to find a way out, feeling unable to turn to anyone. I can relate to that, being lost in confusion. I felt so much for Valerie as she tried to deal with what happened, what it means for her, what is says about her and the role she played in it all.
There is no question this is a powerful, thought provoking, tear-jearker of a book. The descriptions, the power to the flashback scenes of the shooting itself actually made me flinch when the gun went off. I cried for Val as she realised what some people thought of her. I was proud of her as she took steps forward. I ached for her almost the whole way through the book. Val is far from perfect, but that just makes her all the more real. I like how she's so conflicted about events and herself; how she learns and grows through the book from her own views changing; the pressure and hurt from her broken family and the others in the school around her. Not to mention the therapist. I love all the adult involvement in this book! Not all of them are nice characters nor are they all trying to help Val, but they're there and play a very real role and add a presence so often wrongly missing from YA novels.
I found Hate List very hard to put down, and if not for certain issues, I think I'd have easily read it in a single day instead of two. It's paced perfectly, with such well drawn characters and descriptions of the mess of emotions and reactions that really got to me. I got kind of lost in Val's journey and I was sad to get to the end of it. But I do love where this story ends. I won't spoil it for those who've not read it, but I do love it. A heartfelt, powerful book. I'm not sure I can say I enjoyed reading it, because with something dealing with such raw, broken emotions, so much pain, it's hard to enjoy it. But it is excellent reading, and I love it. I'm so glad I read this book, and I think it's one that could maybe help teens who are struggling, or parents of teens who a struggling. With bullying, family issues, life in general as much as anyone who has had to face such a tragedy. And it's certainly a book I'd highly recommend.