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Hate List Paperback – October 5, 2010
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From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 8 Up—At the end of their junior year, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend pulls a gun in the Commons, leaving six students and a teacher dead and many others wounded. Valerie is hit by a bullet in the leg trying to stop him, just before he ends his own life. Until that point, Valerie had no idea that the "hate list" that she and Nick created would be used to target victims in a vengeful shooting spree. For her, the list of tormentors was a way to ease the pain of being bullied and an outlet against the constant fighting between her parents. Although the police investigation reveals that Valerie had nothing to do with the actual shootings, many people in her community, including her parents, have a hard time believing that she is not at fault, too. With the help of a patient and insightful therapist, Valerie bravely returns to school after the summer to face the challenges before her. Told by Valerie in then-and-now chapters, with a few "excerpts" from local newspaper articles added for perspective, this is a startling, powerful, and poignant account of the incidents leading up to, immediately following, and continuing through the teen's senior year of realization and recovery. Valerie is stronger than she knows—a beautifully drawn character who has suffered pain, guilt, and incredible stress as she heals from the shooting, the loss of a troubled boyfriend she deeply loved, and difficult family circumstances. Readers drawn to Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (Razorbill, 2007) and Brooke Taylor's Undone (Walker, 2008) will snap this novel up as well.—Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO END --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
"[A] riveting debut." (starred review)―Publishers Weekly
"Startling, powerful, and poignant." (starred review)―School Library Journal
"This novel ought to be the last written about a fictional high school shooting because it is difficult to imagine any capable of handling it better . . . A story that is as sensitive and honest as it is spellbinding." (starred review)―VOYA
"Authentic and relevant, this debut is one to top the charts."―Kirkus Reviews
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Valerie's boyfriend went on a shooting spree through the school. His victims were ones that he and Valerie had put on a "hate list." It was a way to release steam for her, but for him, it was more. So when the truth comes out after the shooting, it's hard to not blame Valerie for at least part of it. Even though she was the one that got in the way and stopped Nick from hurting more people.
Valerie makes the brave decision to go back to the high school for her senior year. She's faced with the uncertainty of acceptance and having to face all those people that knew they were on the list. The school has been changed and soon, one of the girls that had been on the list reaches out to her, and helps her find some acceptance within the school and with herself.
I was moved to tears at the end of this book. It was one of the most emotional ending I have ever read, and I applaud Brown for tackling this subject with grace and respect and writing one of the best books I have ever read.
When Valerie starts a HATE LIST of people who bullied her and treated her unkindly. She doesn't expect her boyfriend Nick to use that list for targets in a school shooting. Now Valerie is headed back to school to face classmates who probably wish she died in the shooting. With the help of a psychologist and an unlikely new friend, Valerie struggles to recover from the guilt and trauma she experienced.
Valerie's character was easy for me to get inside her head. She started her HATE LIST as a way of venting her frustrations with her dysfunctional family and the popular kids at school, never knowing it would snowball. How could she have known her boyfriend was capable of such carnage. I empathized with her struggles before and after the shooting. She was a fairly well rounded character. Jennifer Brown did a good job giving all her characters a certain amount of depth.
Brown used compelling voice in Valerie's narration. I like how she also included newspaper articles as a way to introduce readers to those who were shot by Nick. Brown researched trauma and recovery and accurately depicted Val's struggle to move on with her life. While HATE LIST had some degree of closure, a lot was left open ended, of which I'm not a fan.
THEMES: bullying, violence, high school, family, friendship, mental illness, PTSD
HATE LIST is a realistic story of recovering from a school shooting.
Secondly, this is a book about teenage angst and real high school tension that takes place in everyday circumstances. Additionally, Valerie has parents that have their own issues and shortcomings. Brown weaves a thread of pain through the family dynamics, as well as the high school dynamics that is realistic and insightful. This gives the reader insight into Valerie's anger as she and Nick create the Hate List as almost an inside joke.
Thirdly, this book is about a process of moving from mental anguish and mental instability to mental health through a few various factors. It takes a knowledgeable and caring therapist. It takes courage from Valerie to take many baby steps to work through the process. It takes persistence from Valerie to not give up when the process was so difficult that it seemed impossible. It also takes a change in focus from Valerie as she must not read too much into each encounter or conversation. Finally, it just takes time as she matures from adolescence into adulthood.
Brown captures these levels by intricately growing the reader's understanding of Valerie by moving easily back and forth in time from before the shooting to the results after the shooting. Readers can easily identify with the mental turmoil because Brown has captured the essence of high school relationships so common in adolescence.
I highly recommend this book to young adults, as well as adults of all ages. It especially gives hope to all who are struggling. I predict this will be a best seller.