In the aftermath of a school shooting, Valerie Leftman is both victim and victimized. Her boyfriend Nick was, after all, the school shooter, who took his own life as well as those of their classmates. Valerie did what she could to stop the shooting, ending up shot herself in the process. That doesn’t matter to the police and the public – she helped Nick compile their “hate list,” and so Valerie is also implicated in the crime.
Jennifer Brown’s Hate List takes a long, hard look at the survivors of a heinous school shooting. Valerie not only has to deal with her own emotional response – she did love Nick, despite the tragic ending – she also has to face her own guilt as an accomplice to the list that led to the shooting. Her family is broken apart – Dad’s moved in with his new girlfriend, and little brother Frankie practically lives at his best friend’s house. At school, many of her peers look at Valerie as part of the problem. One of the intended victims, a girl whose life Valerie saved, is determined to make Valerie her friend. Even talking to a psychiatrist on the regular doesn’t seem to be helping.
The aftermath through Valerie’s eyes gives perspective to what hate can build to. Along the way, Valerie learns about herself and who she really is, as well as who she wants to be. Brown’s skillful characterization of Valerie shows both the selfishness and latent selflessness that Valerie learns to recognize as part of the healiing process.
Definitely a book worth reading.