HATE LIST/Jennifer Brown

image from Goodreads
image from Goodreads


What I love about young adult fiction is that it is very easy to read and the language is easy to follow. It feels like listening to my high school self talk and rant about school, parents, friends, and of course, enemies. Hate List is one such book, and I’m glad I decided to read it even if none of my GR friends have reviewed it yet. I only got to learn about this book when I was browsing Goodreads for some easy reads, and this came up on the suggestions bar. The blurb intrigued me so much so that it reminded me of Columbine, an account of which I read (and loved) a few years back.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

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.

The story is told in Val’s POV which made me feel some sort of intimacy with her character as I get to listen to her thoughts and struggles, her confusion and her pain.  She narrates the events through a series of flashbacks, shifting between the present time when she has to go back to school again, and the past, particularly May 2, 2008, when the shooting happened.

If I were in Val’s shoes I would actually feel the same — confused, afraid, angry, and most of all guilty. I have read that survivor’s guilt is very common among survivors of traumatic incidents and Valerie has every good reason to feel that way. After all, Nick the shooter isn’t a stranger to her and she is the one who started the Hate List after all. I can also understand the anger directed by Val’s classmates towards her when they saw her return to school. They need someone to blame for the killing and since Nick is dead, Val is the most likely target.

My high school was not as hateful as Garvin High and even though I cannot totally relate with all of the hate and angst there are in the students and even in Val, I can still understand why Val did what she did before the killing happened. Bullying is a most prevalent issue in schools these days, we keep hearing about bullying-related incidents on campus, and I think Hate Listcan teach valuable lessons every kid — and even adults — should learn.

Hate List  not only tackles the issues on bullying and campus killings, but it also tells about what it feels to grow up — battling loneliness and the need to belong, the feeling of envy, and the journey to self-discovery and self-acceptance. These are issues which I thing every teenager can greatly relate with and probably learn from. This book is a very relevant book and I greatly recommend this to everyone.

“We only saw what we wanted to see and we…didn’t know…the reality of who these people were.”

4/5 stars.

Recommended by: Goodreads (while searching for books similar to Flipped)

My copy: ebook

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