Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

Barnes & Noble

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.

I know that a book is good when it hurts my soul. And Hate List? It does, my friends. It hurts. I was unable to stop crying--Ugly Crying--for the last 20% of the book.

Jennifer Brown does an amazing job of portraying what life is like for Valerie, her family, and the town after a school shooting. An event that occurred because Valerie and her boyfriend Nick were bullied. They kept a list of people who hurt them and things to which they took offense. And on one fateful day, Nick used that list to change the lives of an entire community.

Brown's writing is so raw and real. I felt like I was a part of Valerie and I had no idea how to stop the hurt.

Because who you are is supposed to be the easiest question in the world to answer, right? [...] [N]ot having a clue who you are hurts way too much. And one thing I did know for sure: I was tired of hurting.
The characters in this book aren't necessarily likeable: bullies, outcasts, absent parents, and adults who want everyone to just "move on." And yet, it's impossible not to root for nearly all of them.

There are a couple of exceptions to the unlikeable people: Dr. Hieler and Bea. Dr. Hieler is the kind of therapist a teenager can relate to. And Bea is an extravagant artist who is so full of energy and life that you can't help but love her quirkiness.
"Oh, dratted technology," Bea muttered as I answered. "Why can't we communicate by carrier pigeons anymore? Beautiful feathers with a lovely note attached. I could use some pigeon feathers around here. Or peacock. Oh yes, peacock! Only nobody ever communicated by peacock, I don't think..."
I highly recommend this book to both parents and teens.

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