March 7, 2010

The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Date Started: March 5, 2010
Date Finished: March 7, 2010

Summary: Valerie started the Hate List as a way to deal with the struggles of being bullied and harassed. Together with her boyfriend, Nick, they would add more people to the list, sometimes people would be on the list more than once. Then one day, May 2, Nick took it too far and shot some of the people on the list, killing some innocent bystanders in the process as well as injuring the students of Garvin High School, whether directly or indirectly. Valerie has to pick up the piece of her fractured life and move on.

Likes: The emotions in this novel are so complex. At points in the novel, you feel bad for the people that Nick killed and when you learn more about them, sometimes you think they deserved it. There are times you are frustrated with Valerie because she is so selfish at times, and other times you wish that people would understand what she is going through because not only did she create the list, but her boyfriend killed those people, then turned the gun on himself. This story is not about comparing hurts and wounds caused by the shootings, but the complex emotions that followed and all the warning signs that people didn't seem to catch until after the fact (obviously).

Coming from a person that constantly got bullied in middle school, I can understand where Valerie was coming from. It was hard for me to see her as being selfish, but I could understand where the characters were coming from. Teenagers are extreme and sometimes we say things like "I'm going to kill her" without meaning it literally. However, you never know who may be listening or who might take it literally. It was hard to sympathize with the bullies that were killed, until we get to the end of the book when Valerie wonders about their parents and the people they left behind and wonders if their parents saw them the way she did or if they even knew how bad they mistreated the shooter.

Dislikes: I wanted more of Nick. He seemed like an archetype of the "ticking timebomb" but I couldn't figure out why he was so mad. Maybe he was just one of those people who could never be happy. I also wanted to know more about Jeremy, who was someone that Valerie didn't like, but Nick hung out with. Valerie's parents were annoying, especially the father who I wanted to just be written out of the book. It does compound Valerie's feelings of isolation, but her father was just an asshole who didn't take responsibility for his actions. When you read about the father, you can see where Valerie learned the behavior from. The ending was a little strange. I'm not sure if things got "resolved" or whether the ending was "satisfying", but it may be the only way to end a novel without getting corny. 

Overall: Great novel. It was interesting to read about students in that situation because I could never imagine what I would do. I'm glad I never had to find out when I was in high school, though we did have our share of problems, nothing was as big as a school shooting.


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