Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review: ‘The Hate List’ by Jennifer Brown

“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.
(Amazon product description)

Bullying is getting a lot of press lately, but it has been going on since the time of Cain and Able.  There is a universal quality to this book which I think most people can relate too.  (I admit, I had a hate list of my own in junior high.)  One of the great successes of this book is the way Jennifer Brown handled this emotional and sensitive material.  She doesn’t pretend to understand what was going on in Nick’s head when he decided to shoot up the school.  Instead, she gives us brief glimpses of some of the harassment Nick and Valerie were subjected to by other students.  She could have easily beat this point, but rather than focusing on the causes of the tragedy, she explores the effects of it. 

Valerie as a character is realistic and heartbreaking.  She had nothing to do with the shooting, but the shadow of guilt surrounds her.  Even her friends and family have turned their back on her.  The only person who seems to view Valerie as an innocent victim in all of this is her former enemy, Jessica, whom she saved from being shot by putting herself in the line of fire.  One of the hardest parts for me was reading about how her own father treated her.  I wanted to reach through the page and choke him.  But this book isn’t just a feel-sorry-for-Valerie story,  Val made mistakes too, which she freely admits.  All of the signs of Nick’s plan were there, and she didn’t see them. 

I especially liked how Brown handled Valerie’s conflicted feelings for Nick.  The Nick that she knew and loved was a smart, funny guy who treated her like a queen.  The Nick who shot up the Commons at school was a complete stranger to her.  Valerie struggles with the grief of losing her first love when the rest of the world thinks he was nothing but a monster. 

Overall, I give The Hate List

Plot – 4 ½ bookmarks
Character Development – 5 bookmarks
Moral Lessons – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream Cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Ashley Rickards (Valerie), Jake T. Austin (Nick), Bridgit Mendler (Jessica)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this sounds like a powerful that I would love. I'm checking my library right now to see if they have it. Thanks so much for the review.