Friday, October 14, 2011

Hate List

Incredible.

Hate List is one of the best books I've read this year. It tells the story of a school shooting from the perspective of Valerie, the shooter's girlfriend. The novel begins with Valerie and Nick as outcasts who jokingly (or so Val thinks) compile a Hate List of people and things that annoy them. When the tragedy occurs and Valerie is wounded, she must reconsider everything she thought she knew about her relationship. The novel details Valerie's return to the school and the reaction of the entire community to a crime that she didn't commit, but with which she is intricately connected.

Author Jennifer Brown does an amazing job of addressing the feelings of so many characters: victims' parents, Valerie's family, classmates, and teachers. She shows how this defining moment will resonate for all the characters for the rest of their lives. Brown's description of Valerie's survivor's guilt is so authentic and wrenching that it had me in tears several times. My whole body felt weighted down as I read the scene when Valerie goes back to school for the first time. I hope I never feel the dread that she experienced in that moment, but Brown was able to take me there at least partly.

The writing was able to do the seemingly impossible: make the perpetrator of a horrific crime sympathetic, if only for a few scenes. Nick was a victim of bullying and was humiliated on a date in front of his girlfriend. Brown writes, "His face, just a few minutes ago grinning, had totally fallen. Almost withered. His cheeks had bright red patches on them and his jaw was trembling. I could almost feel the embarrassment and disappointment radiating off of him, could almost see him crumple into defeat before my eyes." The fact that Brown was able to make my heart hurt for this character is a testament to her talent.

I highly recommend Hate List and will promptly be pressing everyone I know to read it.

1 comment:

  1. I haven't checked your blog in a while. I am so excited to see that you loved this book. I had the same reaction/thoughts about it. My students really like it, too. My after school book club kids are discussing this one now. It's really a wonderful book. I agree completely about how this book makes you physically feel the emotions of the characters. Great reviews. I'm getting lots of wonderful suggestions!

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