Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Hate List

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown 
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009 (Pbk. 2010)
408 pages
4 out of 5

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria.  Shot trying to stop him, Valeria 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.  (Description from Amazon)

Intense.  That is the best word I can think of to describe this book.  The book begins with Valerie's first day back to school after the shooting.  She is still recovering, awkward, and afraid of her classmates reaction to her return.  The rest of the story is told through Valerie's flashbacks and newspaper reports.   

This book features a topic that I find terrifying.  I was in middle school when Columbine happened and lived a bit of history as I experienced changes in policies and school safety as a result.  I can't say that I was or was not worried about it actually happening, but I remember it leaving people keyed up on the subject.  Those feelings returned as I was reading this book.

I felt sorry for Valerie.  She found herself caught up in a scheme planned and executed by the person she loved; the person she thought understood her best in the world.  Valerie's journey is a slow one, but also interesting.  Ultimately, this book is about learning to live again.

There were parts of the story that I feel could have been fleshed out more: Be, the lover of all things purple, and Nick's weird older friend, for example.  Everyone came down on Valerie, but it seems no one asked questions about that guy.

All in all though, I think this topic was handled quite well.

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