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.
Source for image and synopsis: www.goodreads.com
I had intended to read this book for a while, but didn’t get around to borrowing it from JC until this summer. The Hate List is a book that deals with a very real problem: school shootings. The concepts of this book is rather dark, and it’s not the type of book you should be reading if you want something to brighten your day. Despite it’s seriousness, I enjoyed this book.
One thing I liked about this book was how the author handled the school shooting itself and the aftermath. I really like the way the author told the story bit by bit, which really kept me interested in the story. Originally, I didn’t plan on actually reading this book (I had plans to skim it, because I didn’t want to left out on the action), but Brown’s way of spinning the tale urged me to keep on reading. The characters in the story all felt real as well and I was curious to see how each character would react to the shooting.
Brown did a good job of adding layer onto every character. Each character was well written out and thought differently. Valerie, the main character had many sides to her as well. (She had good character development; Wooo! Character development). The shooter, Nick was also a fun character to read about and I enjoyed learning about him. Valerie’s current and old friends were very well written as well. Their personalities were all unique and they all helped to push the story along. The ending was also well done as well, but I won’t spoil it… unless you want me to. Overall, I think this book is a worth a read!
So I read this book a while ago, and it’s still my all-time favorite. I seriously just need to get this out: I. LOVE. THIS. BOOK. It inspires such an amazing mixture of sadness and hope, and I really did love it.
I thought that Brown did a really great job with such a heavy topic. She was able to portray Valerie as an honestly good person without downplaying the mistakes that Valerie has made. It kind of left me with a better understanding of that whole “everybody makes mistakes” thing. And as for Nick--oh, Nick. I had seriously mixed feelings about him. I wanted to look at him as the bad guy because of the awful thing that he did. But after learning about the way that his classmates treated him, and how truly Valerie loved him? I wanted to dislike him, I really did. But I just ended up feeling really bad for him.
There honestly wasn’t that much that I didn’t like about this book, though I did get kind of anxious in the beginning because it took so long for the reader to find out the details of what had happened. But really, that was pretty much the only thing that I didn’t like about the book.
The characters were incredibly dynamic--the “good” characters weren’t always good, and the “bad” characters weren’t all bad, either. I think that this was about the best book that I’d ever read, and I seriously recommend it--and Jennifer Brown’s other books, as well.
This next part is for people who liked the review (or trollers) and goes into more detail on the book. But warning: *SPOILER ALERT*
Kalee: The basic plot of this book was Valerie coping with the consequences of her boyfriend’s (and her own) actions. Throughout the book, she has many social problems and has to learn how to deal with them. I thought the the plot of the book made sense.
JC: I thought that the plot was pretty original, too. Though my mom says that it’s kind of like Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. But I’ve never read it.
Kalee: By reading the synopsis, I agree with your Mom when she says it’s similar. The overall feel of this book was pretty dark. Do you think so, too?
JC: Yeah, but I think that Brown did a really good job with it. It was sad, but it was also kind of . . . I don’t know--hopeful? Because although it tore a lot of families and friendships apart, it kind of brought people together, too. People like Jessica and Valerie? I don’t know.
Kalee: I did have that hopeful feel to it, but I felt pretty depressed reading the book most of the time.
JC: Yeah, it was mostly sad . . . but I thought that the fact that the book could inspire such a strong feeling shows how powerful the story and the writing is. But I don’t know . . . I just like books that can make you feel things.
Kalee: Sad, is not an original feel to the book though. The feeling I got from this book wasn’t nothing too new or extraordinarily different than books I have read before. It did give me the “feels” though.
JC: What, exactly, would you consider an “original” feeling, then?
Kalee: … It’s hard to explain. I kind of knew where the book was headed the whole time, and wasn’t SURPRISED by anything she did or anything that happened. I guess it was just lacking that surprise factor and I have a hard time reading books, when it’s pretty easy to predict how it will end.
JC: Honestly, I kind of agree, but I don’t think that the lack of “surprise” or whatever took away from how good the book was. The purpose of the story wasn’t to surprise or shock you; I think it was more to explore the outcome of an event like the one that happened in the book and to imagine what someone like Valerie, who was so close to the shooter, would feel. It’s supposed to be realistic and raw, not shocking. And I think that the author really succeeded in that.
Kalee: I would give the plot a …. ni--...8.8 out of 10. Not quite a 9, yet.
JC: I give a 9.5! Yayyy! Okay . . . onward!
Kalee: Like I said during my review, I really liked the characters in this book. They each were well developed and made rational decisions. Each character had a different opinion and I was sad when something bad happened to the side characters.
JC: Yeah, I kind of mentioned in my review, too, how I liked that there wasn’t just one side of any characters that was portrayed. Valerie wasn’t perfect, but she had a good heart. Even Nick seemed more . . . misunderstood and . . . desperate . . . more than really mean or bad.
Kalee: I was really interested in learning more about Nick and his relationship with Valerie. I really wanted to see what propelled a person to make such a rash decision.
JC: Yeah, I agree that it would have been interesting to learn more about Nick. The little glimpses into his life kind of helped me to understand what caused him to act so extremely. I don’t think I’ll ever totally get it, but I at least understood why he felt so desperate. What did you think of the other characters? Jessica? Frankie?
Kalee: I liked Jessica and Frankie, but I liked Frankie more. Jessica was the kind of character that showed that there are two sides to a person. She started off as that classical, popular girl. It made a lot of sense to me that she felt that she should be nice to Valerie, because of the whole saving her life and all. Frankie was awesome. Frankie was a great little brother and I loved how he was so supportive. He had his fair share of ups-and-downs as well.
JC: I really liked that Valerie had people that she could count on, when so many other people blamed and hated her for Nick’s actions. Frankie was great, and I thought that he dealt with what happened to his sister really well. He understood that she never meant for anything bad to happen, and he kind of seemed like he wanted to protect her even though he was the little brother. I really liked Jessica, too, because she was another character who had lots of dimension and who didn’t blame Valerie for anything that happened.
Kalee: I would give the characters in this book a 9.5 out of 10.
JC: I would give the same. :)
Kalee: The conclusion seemed sort of obvious to me. Either she would kill herself or do something to make up for actions. The book was pointing towards the later option, because what lesson can be taught when the character doesn’t set the right example in the end?
JC: You’re so brutal. I kind of knew that she would eventually learn to forgive herself, but that’s the whole point of the book, isn’t it? To show you that people make mistakes and that it’s okay to mourn and feel guilty, but there comes a time when it’s finally okay to forgive yourself. I really liked the ending because it’s hopeful, and not totally closed, so it leaves you with the feeling that anything could happen from there.
Kalee: The ending did feel sort of realistic in a way. Everything wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine, with Valerie walking into the sunset. It was a hopeful ending, but you could tell that her happy ending was fragile.
JC: Yeah, because that’s kind of how it is, right? One chapter closes, and the next one comes right after? She’s obviously going to have some difficulties, and she’s not totally over what has happened, but you can feel that she really is getting better. What’s your rating? I’d give another 9.5, I think.
Kalee: Me, too!!
Overall Rating: 9.38 out of 10
JC and Kalee