Hate List by Jennifer Brown
It was just a list. Just a list that Valerie started in a notebook of those people in school…. in life who bugged her. And when Valerie and Nick became a couple… she shared the list with him and it became a “thing” they liked to add to…. the bullies, the tormentors, just a way to vent and release the pressures of home life for both her and Nick.
or so Valerie thought.
Until one day at the end of their Jr year in High School, Nick pulls a gun in the commons, looking to take out those on “the list.” When the shooting is done, 6 students and one teacher are dead, Valerie has a bullet in her leg from trying to stop Nick, who shoots her before he takes his own life. The list is discovered as evidence and it looks to her fellow students as well as Valerie’s parents, that she was an accomplish in the shooting.
And even Valerie has to wonder…. was she to blame?
When she bravely returns to school for her SR year she finds that everything has changed. Her once friends have nothing to do with her. With the help of her therapist and a determination to see things as they really are, Valerie begins to see things in a new light and finds friendship comes in many different forms.
Ok… you may be saying, “really Sheila? Another book on school shootings?” And in a way you could be right. I have no idea why tragedy draws me in to books – fiction and non, but it does. Take my reviews of Think No Evil by Jonas Beiler (true Amish school shooting), Columbine by Dave Cullen ( true story about the Columbine shootings), Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Piccoult (fictional story of a boy teased to the point of doing the unthinkable), We Need To Talk About Kevin (fictional take on a troubled boy…) read pre-blogging for book club, She Said Yes (pre blogging read about a girl who survived the Columbine shooting… ok, you get the gist… I do read about tragedy and overcoming…
BUT (and it is a big BUT) this book is not about a school shooting. Ok – it is, as in it starts with a school shooting… but really, this book is about Valerie and what Valerie does to overcome what has happened. Even the author says this in the back of the book under authors note, “Hate List was never a story about a school shooting. From day one, this story was always Valerie’s story.”
I really like that because Valerie’s story can be so many others story…. others who have survived similar tragedies and must go on… because really, not only the dead are victims in any crime. So many live, or try to live with the aftermath and Hate List is really about that. What do you do when you feel you should have known what was going to happen? When others blame you and you are not so sure they are wrong?
Author, Jennifer Brown says when the idea was forming in her mind for this book there was a song stuck in her head… it was Nickelback’s If Everyone Cared”, and so to put you right “there for the rest of this review…. let’s get a little Nickelback going, shall we?
Hmmmm….. Valerie’s song? I think so. (I have to say this is an easy sell for me – I really like Nickelback).
I really liked the way Jennifer Brown wrote this book. I mentioned books above that I have read with a similar topic but this is the first book I have read that focused on a survivor and how she moved forward. And really I have to say this story speaks to anyone who has survived any tragedy…. you become someone new and as you try to understand this “new you” and you battle your old self as well.
Ok I digress…
Valerie is a well written character and Jennifer Brown does an excellent job of flushing out who she really is as she struggles to find her place in this new world, after the shooting. What I also liked is that throughout the entire book we know that Valerie loved Nick and…. I can even understand that. Nick is also written well so you can see him as a vulnerable victim as well. I think the beauty of this particular book is that it takes some unlikely friends to change the mind of an entire school – to look at things differently and see things and people as they really are.
“Just concentrate on being in the moment”, he said. “Don’t read into things. See what’s really there ok?”
~ Dr. Hieler page 17 – Hate List
Hate List was an amazing read. In the end – I was left with that gentle hum inside of reading a great book. I still keep flipping through those final pages, mainly because it makes so much sense. Its like I am trying to hold that to memory, that we are who we make ourselves to be… and sometimes… sometimes, it takes a completely different perspective to open our eyes to what is real.
Thank you Jennifer Brown…. for opening my eyes.
The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include Hate List
I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble