Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book Review, Part One: Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

I just finished reading a YA book,  Hate List, by Jennifer Brown. It's one of those books that you can't put down without snarling at whoever or whatever interrupted your reading.

Five months ago, sixteen year old Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, walks into the high school cafeteria and opens fire on the students. When she tries to stop him, he shoots her in the thigh and then turns the gun on himself. In flinging herself at him, she unknowingly saves the life of one of the girls who has been bullying her throughout high school. The final toll of the shooting: six students dead, one teacher dead, and several students wounded.

Valerie and Nick have several things in common: both come from dysfunctional families, both are bullied, both feel unloved and unwanted by their parents, and totally unaccepted by the kids in school. It is almost predestined that they will end up in a commited relationship. 

One day, in a joking way, Valerie suggests they write up a "Hate List", putting on it every kid who has ever laughed at them or made fun of them, as well as teachers who seem to dislike them as much as  the other students. When Nick takes up with an older boy, his whole personality begins to change, and the end result is that all those attacked that day are on the Hate List.

Valerie is painted with the same brush as Nick. The parents of the dead kids, in fact, most of the adults in town, believe she is as much responsible for thetragedy as Nick. This goes from bad to worse when even the police, her few friends and their families, and both her parents, believe the same thing...especially after they find both the Hate List, and emails back and forth from Valerie and Nick attesting to how much they hate these people.

Now Valerie must deal with overcoming her feelings of guilt, anger, hurt, sadness, and confusion, and amid this, try to decide whether or not she should go back to school in the fall and try to graduate with her class, or move away and attempt to start over. In the midst of her parents' constant fighting, of finding out her father is having an affair,  of trying to reconcile her image of Nick with what is, seemingly, the "real" Nick, and of constant police harrassment, she decides to stay in school.

She gets no comfort or support from either parent, and in fact, learns that her father does believe she had a part in the shooting and will never forgive her. However, she finds what she needs to go on with life from  her psychologist, Dr. Heiler. Through her much needed therapy sessions, she learns to accept reality as it is. She begins to analyze what her role in the shooting really is, and she develops the courage, determination, and self-confidence to face both her friends, and those she put on the Hate List.

This is already a long post, so I'm going to save my comments about this book for next week.

Until next time,
That's a wrap.