Hate List: A Novel
June 16, 2010
When a school shooting happens, what happens to those left behind? Garvin High School is left in emotional shambles when a student brings a gun to school and starts shooting people on the Hate List. Valerie Leftman is not only a victim of the shooting, but the girlfriend of the shooter and the originator of the now infamous Hate List. The novel follows Valerie as she has to come to grips with the bloody aftermath of the shooting and trying to find forgiveness.
Jennifer Brown weaves a sadly illustrative look at what happens after a school shooting. This book does not focus on the 'why' the shooting happened, but on those who are trying to survive the aftermath. Valerie is awkward, sullen, and a typical angsty teen trying to find her place in world where no one wants her. Her inner dialogue meshes easily with the descriptions and conversations in the book. While the book does change timelines regularly, Brown provides clues and hints that let us truly understand how it feels to live everyday with the thought that 'you should have died too.'
In the novel, Valerie draws in a notebook to help her deal with going back to school. This is one novel that I think could have been enhanced by including her drawings in part of the book. Understanding how Valerie saw things could have been even more successful by incorporating her images and thoughts in a visual form. For a teen novel, Brown did a good job of skipping the 'depressing' parts. While most of the book was depressing, Brown managed not to dwell on the overwhelming heaviness of severe depression and listlessness that is often overplayed in Young Adult novels. Instead, the book is almost a hopeful look at Valerie's life.
"I felt like I should say something, but I didn't know what to say. To remind them that I wasn't the shooter would make me sound defensive. To try to console somebody would be beyond weird. To do anything would feel like overload. I wasn't ready for this yet and couldn't believe that I'd ever thought I was. I didn't have answers to my own questions; how could I possibly answer any of theirs?" Hate List (page 74)
Jennifer Brown's Webpage
I actually had the pleasure of hearing Jennifer Brown talk at the KCMLIN Teen Road Workshop in 2009. I find it amusing that Brown was able to write such a tumultuous, emotional, depressing tale while being an amusing, perky, family-loving person. She expressed her love for writing, for her readers, and for the emotional impact that is left with those who were left behind.