Wednesday, December 8, 2010

YA review: Hate List

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. (summary from goodreads)

To read chapter one, follow this link.

My thoughts...I have to admit, I did not want to read this book.  After reading the book summary, the content seemed too dark, depression, and scary.  The book found its way into my hands and I reluctantly began reading, expecting heartbreak.  I quickly discovered that while this book is definitely covers some tough subjects, it was one I needed to finish.  Hate List haunted me for weeks after competing it.  It left me with mixed emotions including grief and frustration. 

Hate List is a very powerful story.  It explores the aftermath of a student involved in a school shooting that resulted in the death of a number of students.  The story is told through the point of view of Val, who was the girlfriend of the shooter.  Prior to the shooting, they created a hate list of people who treated them cruelly, or in their opinion, unjustly.  The list reached beyond their classmates.  We walk with Val as she returns to school after months of therapy.  She has to learn to come to terms with the events, as do her classmates.  It was a powerful journey. 

The big emotions this book left me with were fear and frustration. This is a scary situation, one that no matter how much you protect your kids, now matter how safe you think they are at school, the truth is they aren't.  High School kids can be cruel and there is no telling what that sort of cruelty can cause people to do.   It is frustrating that we can't control this.  It is frustrating that this sort of thing happens.  As for the book I have to ask myself...Would I want my kids to read a story like this?  Would this story be a good selection for a class library?  My answer is yes.  Bringing awareness to issues like this may be a good way to prevent it. Will it stop the ridiculing and abuse that occurs between students, no. However, it may make people think twice and consider the repercussions of their actions.

In regards to the story, it is very well written and interesting.  It will make you cry and believe that sometimes good things can come from the darkness.

Overall, I recommend this book, especially for discussion.  One question could be the guilt of Val.  Was she guilty?  Did she get off easy?  Making a hate list is definitely not a good outlet for the frustrations they were feeling, but what would be another way to deal with this.  Anyone who has ever been at the receiving end of ridicule can attest to the way it makes you feel.  This story definitely provides a good starting point for discussion. 

For more information about Hate List or the author Jennifer Brown, visit her website



Melissa said...

I haven't heard all that much about Hate List, but the premise scares me, which I'm sure it's supposed to. I'm glad you found this powerful, Elie. Great review :)

Missie said...

School schooling? At first that confused me, but then I got it, shooting.

Wow, I think I would struggle with this one too, but it does sound like a must read.

Great trailer.

Lori said...

I read this book last year and I was completely taken with it. I haunted me for weeks too. Great review.

Helen's Book Blog said...

I read this book a while ago and still think about it. The topic of a school shooting sounds like such a depressing book, but the author was very smart and gives us a look at the "after" of the event and how it has affected everyone rather than the grisly details of a play-by-play of the shooting. I think this is a very good book

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this book. I think it addresses such an important topic and like you said is a good starting point for discussion.

Marie said...

This has been on my wishlist FOREVER. I finally gave in and got it when it came out in paperback.

I haven't read it yet.

It sounds like a really heavy read. Thank you for this review. I think it would be a great book for discussion.

I know a few teachers are having their kids read some YA titles, I can't remember which ones but this one would be a good one to add to the list.

Sandy said...

Don't think I could handle reading this on my own but I like your suggestion for group discussion. It might be easier to talk things out instead of letter the book stew in your head. My friends and I are going to start a book club next year so I'll suggest this book.

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