Saturday, October 24, 2009
Valerie Leftman's world comes crashing down the morning her boyfriend Nick open fires on students and teachers at their high school, killing six and wounding many, before shooting Valerie and killing himself. Val wakes up in the hospital to discover that Nick is dead and she has become the scapegoat.
Months later, Valerie returns to school, where her old friends ostracize her and practically no one trusts her. But it's better than being at home with her mother who hovers over her, scared that she's suicidal, or her silent father who believes that Val is a monster. But the one thing that Val has the hardest time getting over is what will haunt her the most—the fact that she helped create the Hate List of people that Nick chose his targets from.
Jennifer Brown's debut YA novel is complex, gripping, and highly emotional as Valerie must come to terms with her role in her school's shooting amidst atmosphere of hate and resentment. Brown does an excellent, excellent job at making Hate List as realistic as possible—from parent expectations to bullying in school, and the hostilities and frustrations that most teens experience firsthand. Not only that, but Hate List is a story of healing as Valerie tries to put her life back together and encounters many roadblocks in the form of hostile teens who blame her for what happened, a shaky family life, and her own fear. Her journey is portrayed realistically; she gets the help of an excellent therapist, but finds that he's not enough to heal her—she needs be brave and willing to take small steps to recovery, sometimes with unexpected outcomes and consequences.
Brown reveals all of this about Valerie and her life before and after the shooting by alternating points of view between what is happening in the present, Val's memories from before when she was just happy to be with Nick, and to the moments of the shooting, when everything changed. It's is an intricate layer of stories, told with feeling and suspense, making every moment gut-wrenching, not just those that occur during the shooting. Hate List is a powerful novel that is at once a reminder that every action has some sort of effect on someone else, and that there is hope after a tragedy, no matter how hurtful or impossible healing may seem. Jennifer Brown is an author to watch.
Cover Comments: I love this retro-feel to this cover and the colors used. I feel that it's appropriately solemn without looking completely depressing, and it just pops despite its dark colors.