Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hate List

Wow.  What an incredible book.  I would use exclamation points at the end of every sentence for this review, but because the book deals with such a serious subject it doesn't seem appropriate...exclamation points seem too perky.  But maybe I'll underline something...

Valerie Leftman's life is upside down, sideways, and in pieces.  It is her senior year of high school, but what should be a year living it up with friends, filling out college applications, and lording it over the underclassmen, is actually going to be the toughest year of Valerie's life.  Just over three months before, on May 2nd, Valerie's boyfriend Nick opened fire in the school commons, killing several students and a teacher, and wounding several others before turning the gun on himself.  Valerie herself was shot in the leg trying to stop Nick.  Even though it was Nick who pulled the trigger, many blame Valerie just as much.  Unhappy with her home life and the way she was treated at school, she started a "hate list" of people and concepts that annoyed her.  For Valerie this was just a way to express her feelings, but for Nick it was a starting place for shooting.

After a summer of hiding in her room and therapy, Valerie must face going back to school.  Most of her fellow students despise her, blame her, or at least want to ignore her.  However, she has an unlikely ally - Jessica Brown, student body president and queen bee of the school - whose life she saved trying to stop Nick.  As Valerie confronts her past choices and is confronted by people whose lives were forever changed on May 2nd, she realizes what it means to really see people for who they are.

Somebody given an award to author Jennifer Brown for treating such a tough and touchy subject with so much delicacy and depth.  I admit I had avoided reading this book for a while because I thought it would be so depressing, too dark, and riddled more angst than I can normally handle...boy was I wrong.  It didn't even take long to read and it's over 400 pages - yeah, it's that good.  When this book was reviewed in VOYA magazine they said "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...."  I concur 100%.  Everyone, not just teachers, librarians, and teens, needs to read this book - grandparents should read this, football players should read this, pop stars should read this because this is a book that makes a difference in people's lives even if they have never been through this kind of situation.


  1. Excellent review and an important book for all to read!

  2. I was telling one of the counselors at school about this book. She is planning on buying it and trying to figure out what level of English should read it. (She used to be an English teacher)I suggested freshmen. I look forward to your review of Into the Wild Nerd Yonder. I thought it was a hoot!