Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 5, 2010
Pages: 405
Source: Gifted

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.


"I can't say what was going through my mind with all that crying - only that it was murky and dark and hateful and woeful and miserable all at once. Only that I wanted Nick and I wanted to never see him again. Only that I wanted my mom and I wanted to never see her again, either. Only that I knew, somewhere back there in the recesses that my brain was keeping safe from itself, that in some way I was responsible for what had happened today, too. That I had a part in it, and that I never meant to. And that I couldn't say for sure I wouldn't have been part of it if I had to do it all over again. And I couldn't say for sure that I would."
In this book, we have the story of a girl named Valerie who wrote a Hate List with the boy she trusted most in life. A girl who was blindsided when that very same boy turned a gun on his classmates. A girl who was lost when that boy then turned a gun on himself and left her alone to face the blame, gratitude, guilt, and confusion that now defined her broken life. We have the story of Nick, the boy who felt so victimized by others, so full of hate, that it drove him to end the lives of others before ending his own. The boy who was once sweet and innocent, and deserved more love than he was given. Then there's Jessica, Queen B and mean girl of Garvin High, who stared down the barrel of a gun, but was in the end saved by the very girl who put her name on that list. In this second chance at life, she's determined to be a better person than she was before. And Ginny, a survivor of gun shot to the face, who never really did anything but laugh along with the others, but now wishes for death because it is better than the reality of her new life. In small ways, we have the stories of the other survivors, and indirectly, the stories of the victims. Stories of families that are torn apart by grief, anger, denial, and misguided blame. And lastly, the collective story of the kid's of Garvin High, who are forever changed by the tragedy that occurred on May 2nd, and yet in some ways, exactly the same.

Through her stories, Jennifer Brown gives readers the gift of perspective. No one is completely innocent, and no one is completely to blame. I applaud her for this. She tackles a difficult subject with grace and compassion and gives an unbiased and complete retelling that does it justice. She takes an event that most of us only experience from a distance, and struggle to comprehend, and gives us something real to grasp, to learn from.

I love the way she writes, and I love the way her stories make me feel, even if it is a heartbreaking, empathetic, raw kind of emotion. At the core, her stories are unapologetically real and wholly relevant. And they leave me in awe every time.

If you've never read a book by Jennifer Brown I urge you to change that. I think she has a talent that is unparalleled when it comes to telling stories that are hard to tell but that need to be told. Her stories will break you apart but they will teach you something, and you will become a better person because of it.

I can't say enough positive things about her work. I can't express enough gratitude for the stories she writes. But thank you, Jennifer Brown, for doing what you do and sharing it with the world.
"What if I didn't want to move on just yet? What if that medal reminded me that the guy I'd trusted most in this world shot people, shot me, shot himself? Why couldn't she see that accepting the school's 'thanks,' in that light, was painful to me? Like gratitude would be the only possible emotion I could feel now. Gratitude that I'd lived. Gratitude that I'd been forgiven. Gratitude that they recognized that I'd saved the lives of other Garvin students.

The truth was most days I couldn't feel grateful no matter how hard I tried. Most days I couldn't even pinpoint how I felt. Sometimes sad, sometimes relieved, sometimes confused, sometimes misunderstood. And a lot of times angry. And what's worse, I didn't know who I was angry at the most: myself, Nick, my parents, the school, the whole world. And then there was the anger that felt the worst of all: anger at the students who died." 
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