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Hate ListReview - Hate List
by Jennifer Brown
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009
Review by Amy Ridley
May 25th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 21)

Valerie is dreading the first day of school but not for the usual reason. Her boyfriend Nick went on a shooting rampage at their high school last spring, killing several students, a teacher and then himself. Valerie has been recuperating from the gunshot wound and emotional damage that she endured during the attack. She was implicated in the attack because of a list that she made with Nick naming kids that they hated. She's not sure what role she actually played in the rampage but she knows that she needs to get her family and the police to believe that she did not plan the attack with Nick. She also needs to figure out how to deal with the animosity she faces from her entire community and the loss she feels for someone that was the focal point of her life for three years.

Her parents' already fragile marriage is further strained by the shooting. Her father has no doubt that Valerie was involved in the deaths of those people and his anger towards her is often times vicious and cruel. Her mother is trying to keep the family together but is unable to trust her daughter. Valerie has a good relationship with her younger brother but that has been strained by the shooting as well.

Valerie refuses to talk about what happened which does not go over well with her parents or the police. She's forced to go to a shrink and finds that she is able to open up to him. He helps guide her through the different emotions that she's feeling. She's not able to see Nick as a murderer because that's not the boy she dated for three years. This infuriates her parents further. Her main obstacle going back to school comes from an unexpected source. The girl that teased her relentlessly and called her Sister Death wants to be friends now that Valerie is back at school. Valerie does not trust her motives and feels like she is being a phony. She also feels like she is betraying Nick.

Valerie's guilt and true confusion about her involvement in the shooting is beautifully handled by Brown. Valerie made the list with Nick as a way of venting her frustration. She had friends but was not part of the popular crowd. She was mocked by the school's most popular girl. She had always talked to Nick about who was mocking her and told him to add that person to the list. Even though Valerie's hatred for these people was real, she is trying to figure out how Nick lost touch with reality enough that he decided to kill these people. She feels incredible guilt for not seeing what he was planning.

The author does a great job of not making anyone a particularly sympathetic character. All of the victims that survived have flaws which help put the pieces together as to how this entire situation got so out of hand. Everyone involved played a part even though the blame is clearly on the shooter. As hard as it is to believe at the beginning of the book, Valerie grows stronger throughout the book with the help of her therapist. It is obvious that Valerie's family is not going to help her work through this and that she needs to help herself which is a major step for her.

The story is told through occasional flashbacks, newspaper articles and present day. The is book is appropriate for ages 12 and up. 

 

© 2010 Amy Ridley

 

 

Amy Ridley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University.


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