Thursday, 16 August 2012
Hate List by Jennifer Brown
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Released: October 5th 2010
Pages: 432 (Paperback)
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.
I came across this novel when I was randomly browsing in Waterstone's, and the blurb immediately drew me in. I'd never seen another book quite like this one, and I still haven't to date. Although the storyline is a lot about different kinds of relationships and love, I definitely wouldn't call this a romance novel. For me, this book was about a certain coming of age, and that realization of adult responsibility and how fragile seemingly strong relationships can be. I found it all incredibly intriguing, and when I was finishing it up last night, I was just sat there crying my eyes out. Brown is an author to watch.
The whole story is basically about this girl named Valerie, who is just your average teenager - until her boyfriend comes into school one day and guns down several people; people who she wrote down in the Hate List, a notebook full of things and people her and her boyfriend hated. So essentially, when her boyfriend suicides and she is left alive, people look at her to blame the whole thing on. This has ruined her relationship with her family, her friend's, her school, and she's left pretty much on her own to face the stark reality of what's happened. Everything in her life has drastically changed, and this book is about her trying to adapt to it.
Firstly, I just loved the way Brown wrote. It was easy to read and to follow, didn't have any stupidly long and complicated words, and she didn't spend too long on the descriptions; it was just enough for us to form a vague picture in our head of the surrounding, but it didn't take up half the novel. Secondly, I loved the whole initial plot. You hear about stuff like this that can happen around the world, but you never think you'll ever experience something like that. This novel gives us just a small insight into how horrible events like this are, and how they can change people's lives forever. It was eye-opening for me, and I found myself being in fits of tears practically the whole way through - and that's from someone who can only understand a minuscule of the reality.
I also loved the characters - even Nick, although he killed all those people. Each of them were very individually different, and I found myself being able to sympathize with each and every one of them, whether they were the bully, the bullied or just another student. Admittedly, sometimes I got really frustrated with Val - everyone blamed her unfairly, and in the beginning she just hid away and didn't seem to defend herself they way I felt she should. But as the book grew on, she became more confident, and I felt that was much more realistic than any other way. I have to say, I hated her Dad. I absolutely loathed him. Personally, I found him to be in personification of what a stereotypical bad parent is. He had no faith in Val, treated her and her mother awfully, was unfair and unjust and I honestly just wanted to punch him. But his difficult characteristics did add a certain quality to the novel, and showed another side of Valerie's life before the shooting.
Overall, I loved this novel. It drew out emotions with me, and in some ways it was wirtten so realistically that I almost felt I was living alongside the student's pain - maybe as a sibling, like Valerie's younger brother, Frankie. But despite everything, I think what I loved the most was the message this book sends out. It isn't necessarily just about a school shooting - it is also about growing as a person, and seeing things for what they really are, rather than what they first seem. It's also about the evolution of individual people - how some event could alter a person permanently, both in the physical and mental sense of the word. It was honestly such a moving novel, and it didn't sugarcoat anything, which I liked. It was hardhitting, and completely perfect.