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.
Hatred is one thing, but murder is another. Jennifer Brown’s Hate List is a moving book about a school shooting in which that line is crossed, leaving behind a girl who can be viewed as both a hero–she stopped the shooting–and an accessory to murder–she helped write the list of people who were killed. Brown’s background in journalism is evident in the articles she creates about the shooting, and more subtly in her crisp, well-written narrative.
Ever since hearing about Columbine as a middle-schooler, I’ve been fascinated by school shootings and what conditions can drive a person to murder their classmates in cold blood. While it is obviously never acceptable to shoot up your school, Hate List and Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes do an exceptional job of showing the humanity that remains inside even the darkest people, deep beneath the exterior shell that is often hardened by years of bullying and abuse. These books also remind us that we must be careful how we treat people, and what kind of threats we make. Valerie learned too late that just because you don’t mean it doesn’t mean somebody else doesn’t, and the people you hate just might not be so bad if you give them a chance. Hate List is a powerful book full of tearjerker moments and opportunities to reflect on the way we live our lives.
Tags: emotional problems, family problems, forgiveness, high schools, school shootings
Filed under: Book Review