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.
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!