Hate List by Jennifer Brown – review and contest!


From Good Reads:

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.

When hearing about school shootings, one might ask, “How did this go unnoticed until it was too late?” Reading Hate List and Columbine really helps you see how some signs are never there, or are never taken seriously. Hate List is a work of fiction, but Jennifer Brown must have spent some time researching school shootings because her book feels very authentic.

The novel moves about a bit – mostly going forward starting with Valerie’s first day back at school for her senior year, but it also jumps back occasionally to scenes in Nick and Val’s relationship, the day of the shooting, and her recovery over the summer. Each change in time fits in with the story structure. Also included are some newspaper articles from the town’s local paper. Most of these articles focus on a single victim of the shooting – who they were, what people say happened to them that day. My only complaint about these articles (and it’s really my only complaint with the book, and it’s possible that it could be fixed since this is just an ARC) is that all the articles are dated May 3rd, the day after the shooting. But some of the articles reference things that seem to need more than 24 hours to happen. One girl, Lin Yong (pg 234 in my copy) was hit in the arm with a bullet. The article says she’d had 4 surgeries already and is trying to learn to write with her left hand. It really took me out of the moment to question the realism of this girl having 4 arm surgeries and already re-learning to write in 24 hours. Maybe it’s possible? It just felt like an article that would be written a couple months later, not within 24 hours of the shooting. The articles are helpful to fill in details on characters and what people think about Nick and Valerie.

The character of Valerie broke my heart. Brown has created a fully-formed character. I understood the negativity she built up towards people as an outcast and how the Hate List she created with Nick was a way of venting for her. I cannot blame her for thinking that Nick was not serious about the list. I remember writing notes with my BFF Christi in 9th grade, saying we wished our English teacher would fall in a lake and drown because of the big rock necklace she always wore. Neither of us ever actually thought it would happen or plotted to make it happen. People commiserate in bad situations like high school bullying.

Valerie has a harder time accepting this. She knows that she didn’t ask Nick to bring a gun to school, but she is aware that most of the school thinks she did. She feels guilty because she misses Nick, the Nick who read Shakespeare to her and helped her escape from her house when her parents’ marriage began to crumble. How can she have missed a whole other side of Nick? And does that mean that side exists in her, too? That she just hasn’t realized it yet?

As Valerie works to recover, she has a rough road to travel on. Her parents no longer trust her, her friends no longer speak to her. She was already an outcast at school but this just makes it worse. Even some teachers eye her warily. The school principal is in denial that bullying still exists in the school. Valerie’s biggest supporter is her therapist, who is AWESOME. She also finds some surprising allies along the way as she learns that not everyone has just one side to them, and you need to look closely to see all their facets. Val must begin to work towards letting go of Nick, healing from that terrible day, and moving on with her life.

I couldn’t put this book down once I picked it up, and the end had me in tears. I can’t wait to buy this for my library and start recommending it to my students. The book comes out in September.

5 stars


Thanks to Hachette, I have one ARC of Hate List to give away. The contest will run from today, July 17th through Thursday, July 23rd at 5 pm. Leave a comment on this post for one entry. You can get one additional entry for each place you post about this contest, such as your blog or Twitter. Please leave links to where these are so I can keep track of how many entries you get. ALSO, please provide a way I can reach you if you win – email, etc. Good luck!



Filed under review, young adult lit

10 responses to “Hate List by Jennifer Brown – review and contest!

  1. Christina Anderson

    Wow! I cannot wait for this book to come out!!!!!

  2. Please enter me in the contest. I’m really anxious to read this one!


  3. Natalie Shelton

    Please enter me in the contest! I can’t wait to read the book. Thanks!

  4. Tanya Atkinson

    Hi Carrie – I read your review at goodreads (and commented there) and instantly added this one to me TBR list. I’m a fan of YA lit and this one sounds like a fascinating read. Thanks for the review!

  5. I would LOVE to read this book!!! Also, I think it would be a great book to pass on to my son who is just starting to read YA’s!

  6. Cindy

    What grade/reading level would you recommend this for? I’ve been looking for some well-written page turners for reluctant high school readers. It makes me crazy to force kids who hate reading and don’t read well to read _The Scarlet Letter_ (not that they shouldn’t EVER read it…it’s just a little out of their skill set at the moment).

    I’m hoping my new school will have a more extensive YA class set collection. My last school was a charter/magnet and VERY focused on rigor and classics.

  7. dogearedandwellread

    I think upper middle schoolers would get it, but I think it’s best for high school readers, just because of the subject matter. There is nothing “bad” to keep it from younger kids, a little drinking and smoking is it.

    If you are looking for books aimed at truly reluctant HS readers, I can’t recommend the Orca Soundings line enough; http://www.orcabook.com/client/client_pages/Orca_Soundings_Info.cfm?gclid=CIX50ZSL7ZsCFRHxDAodAVRs-w. The books are very short but focus on topics kids like.

  8. Pingback: Top Ten 2009 books « Dog-eared and Well-read

  9. kelly

    I read this book in one night i couldnt put it down, it was just soo good, at the end i cryed, i think every school should a student read this, if they only what their words did people maybe they wouldnt do it, because most school shootings are about the kid being bullied and teased, im 16, ill tell you im not the most of popular girl in school i have a few friends but not many but its enough to suit me, but i deal with bullying and teasing becuase how i look what i wear where im from, and its horrible. This book has got to be one the most amazing books i ever read, i have read many books almost my whole libary at school, but this would have to go on my number 1 best book ever, that one night i read it, i thought about the hate list and why they wrote it, and i understand that, because of they were treated, but i made my own list its kinda funny but its the love list, i put all the peoples names in my head that teased me and thought about what was best of them, but honestly i couldnt do it, becuase i didnt know who they were really were like val and nick did, they just saw what they did to them, they didnt see anything else. I was trying to maek this short, but theres so much to say about this book its amazing truely, if only people could see what these kids saw whats so sad about it cost a persons life them to relize it. I am truly honored to have been the first in my high school to read this book when i saw it i had to get it, this book is great, if you havent read it i think you should.

  10. Pingback: Bitter End by Jennifer Brown | Dog-eared and Well-read

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