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.

Another cover, but I prefer the one I have which is the one at the top of this review

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.

Amazon Rating

The 2011 WHERE Are You Reading Map has been updated to include Hate List

I purchased this book at Barnes and Noble

32 thoughts on “Hate List by Jennifer Brown

  1. Thanks for the review. I, too, love Nickleback though I have never seen this video. I will add this book to my wishlist
    Love & Hugs,

  2. Sheila, you did a wonderful job reviewing this book. I read it in 2009 and I still think about it. It’s one of those books that will always be in the back of your mind and anytime you see it on someone’s list or blog or stack, you’ll want to talk to them about it. At least that’s how it’s been for me. I was very touched by it and you nailed it with the song. 🙂

  3. Fabulous review Sheila. It would be a fascinating read and as I read your review and watched the video (I too love Nickelback) I was brought back a few years to a school shooting in a small town in southern Alberta. A pastor was the father of one of the boys who was killed and he made it his mandate to teach forgiveness. He travelled to local schools and taught in church the need and blessing of forgiveness. His response was immediate and I marvel at that.

  4. Thanks for your review, Sheila. Just the title alone might have kept me away, as it sounded like just another horrific “mean” story that spotlights the cruel streak in kids.

    I like the idea of surviving tragic events and coming to terms with our responsibility for certain events…and dealing with the consequences.

  5. Wow, great review. I have had this on my Wishlist for so long, thanks for saying it is more than the shooting and the after, that intrigues me more actually.

  6. This sounds like an awesome book. I like that the focus is on Valerie and what she does after everything happens.

  7. I agree with Kathy, I have yet to see a negative review of Hate List either, and I think you capture a lot of what made it such a powerful book. I was touched by reading it, though I thought the father was a little over the top.

  8. So glad that you took the journey with the author on this book. It’s amazing and a story that really needs to be read and talked about!

  9. This sounds excellent, Sheila. I loved Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes – one of her best in my opinion – and I have another to add to your list – The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. Also excellent and dealing mostly with the aftermath of a shooting. Lamb started with real-life facts – the shooting in the book is the one at Columbine – and then builds a fictional story around it, about two staff members at the school who survived the shooting and how it affects the rest of their lives.

    This sounds great – thanks for the review!


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