The Hate List
March 15, 2012
I read Jennifer Brown’s Hate List over the summer as part of a reading challenge for our staff at North Oak. We were to choose from a variety of award winning books, and then share them with each other and our customers. Hate List is a Gateway Nominee from 2011-2012. I had not reviewed the book yet and went back and reread several chapters after the shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio. Jennifer Brown is a local Kansas City author who had a column in the Kansas City Star that I always looked forward to reading. I remember when Hate List came out, I thought it wasn’t very timely. One of the most definitive fiction books on school violence had been written by Jodi Picoult: Nineteen Minutes, written in 2007. Unfortunately, there is still much to say, worry, and think about on this subject.
Hate List is set in 2008-2009. It is about a high school student, Valerie, who is involved in a school shooting and must return to school the next year. Val and her boyfriend Nick were both bullied and came from troubled families. They bonded together and talked about the people at school who made their lives the most difficult. They texted, emailed, and wrote each other all their inner most thoughts. One outlet in particular was through a Hate List. Val had no idea that Nick would bring a gun to school and take aim at as many on the list as he could before wounding Val, who was trying to stop him, and then killing himself. Val spends a summer recovering both physically and emotionally before returning to her high school for her senior year. She is looked at as a hero and a villain by her classmates and teachers. She was cleared by police of having no prior knowledge of Nick’s intentions. However, many of her peers still can’t forgive her for the part she did play.
This book isn’t just about a school shooting. More importantly, it’s about the pressures to fit in and feel accepted in high school. It takes a deeper look inside the life of one teenage girl struggling to find her place in this world. As time goes on, Val grows and recognizes her role in what happened. I really came to like Val and hope that she really does overcome the challenge of moving on and maybe doing something in the future to help stop school bullying and violence.
North Oak Branch