Book Review: Hate List

Hate List

Jennifer Brown

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

416 pages

Imagine that you are in high school and your boyfriend dies. Now imagine that he has killed himself while on a shooting rampage in your school. Now add to the situation that you are ostracized because of it and seen as a co-conspirator. Valerie finds herself in just this situation in Hate List, by Jennifer Brown. Valerie’s boyfriend Nick has opened fire on her classmates and teachers during school one day. Valerie witnessed the massacre first hand. Now she is trying to deal with the loss of her boyfriend on top of the trauma of a school shooting. Unfortunately for Valerie, the school shooting seemingly evolved from a notebook she started called “The Hate List”. Valerie and Nick often found themselves to be an easy target for the “cool” kids in school to pick on. In order for Valerie to deal with the bullying, she has begun to write names down on her list. You teased her or said something degrading to her? Consider yourself on the list. For Valerie, it was just a defense mechanism; a way to deal with the tormenting. But Nick took it one step further by actually opening fire on kids from the list.

Because Valerie never imagined actually following through with the list or physically harming anyone, she was as shocked as everyone else when it came to the school shooting. However, she soon became implicated by “The Hate List” and others began to turn away from her or fear her. As a reader, we know from the get go that Valerie really did not help Nick plan the massacre, nor did she have any idea that his pent up anger would lead to violence. So it was incredibly frustrating and sad that she had to deal with the misconceptions of others while grieving just as much as anyone else over what had happened.

I became especially upset with the treatment Valerie received from her father. He was immediately distrustful of Valerie and eventually came to resent the way the school shooting affected his personal life. There is no one more important to a child than their parents, and in a time of such adversity, Valerie needed the love and support of her parents. The fact that her dad was unwilling to give that support infuriated me.

For those of you that have read this book, did you feel sympathy for Nick? I don’t think I felt one iota of sympathy for him. And it’s not necessarily because he took the cowardly way out compared to the way Valerie behaved and carried herself. I recently read We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver, which is also about a teenage boy who commits a shooting at school, but I saw Kevin as being a pathetic kid—someone who desperately needed love and became unhinged by his need. However, I just saw Nick as selfish. Maybe it’s not fair to draw a conclusion either way, because the reader is not given hardly any insight to Nick in Hate List, although Valerie never forgets that there was good in him and that he had favorable qualities.

I think Hate List is the perfect example of YA fiction with substance. To any naysayers out there who try to claim that YA fiction is not worthwhile reading, I say read Hate List and tell me you still feel that way!

Other reviews:

My Friend Amy

Presenting Lenore

The Story Siren

Linus’s Blanket


A Patchwork of Books

6 Responses

  1. Wow, that sounds really powerful. I can’t remember if I’ve put this one on my list. I’ll have to go check. I’ve seen it around but wasn’t sure if it was a good one for me. It sounds like it is.

  2. This one sounds like a book I need to add to the tbr list. I read “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” too but I didn’t think of him as pathetic. I know that he really got screwed in the mom gene pool but there was something kind of evil about that kid. I’ll look forward to comparing the two.

  3. I am really looking forward to this novel!

  4. I keep reading great reviews of this book. I don’t think I want to read it over the holiday season, but maybe I’ll try it next year.

  5. I just finished reading Hate List last night and I LOVED it. I so agree with you about her father – he drove me insane the way he treated her… like she was some kind of leper or something. I didn’t much like the way her mother treated her, either, but at least she was trying.

    I really didn’t feel any sympathy for Nick, either, but I think that’s because we didn’t get to know him at all. I mean, Valerie has her memories, and it’s clear that Nick loved her and would have done anything for her, but overall we didn’t learn much about him. Maybe if we learned that he was abused by his parents, or something to that affect, it would have helped me to understand him better, but as it stands I really didn’t.

  6. […] Hate List, Jennifer Brown […]

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