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Book Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List
Title: Hate List 
Author: Jennifer Brown
Series: Standalone
Pages:  405
Publisher: Little, Brown
Date of Publication: 5th October 2010
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.


My Thoughts:
Reading the synopsis of Hate List, I really thought that this book was going to be amazing. It definitely has the potential to be an incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring read, but it just missed the mark for me. I still really enjoyed it though.

First off I want to say well done to Jennifer Brown for tackling such difficult subjects as murder and death and everything that comes with it, and other things that don't SEEM as bad but can often be WORSE, like bullying and exclusion from social groups in schools. Difficult 'taboo' subjects such as these are not talked about enough, as they are considered harmful and wrong for children and young people to read, but without books like these I would never have known how bad such events can affect people, and while I still don't understand completely what leads people to kill, to cut, or to bully people so much that they want to leave school or life or whatever, I have a much better understanding and reading it is MUCH more powerful than, say, a teacher or an adult telling you.

Anyway, onto the actual book. The story is more about the aftermath of the shooting from Valerie's point of view, and about her being bullied and excluded from social groups and how she has to try and cope with people accusing her of starting whatever caused her boyfriend Nick to shoot dead 6 students and teachers and injure a lot more. The book is very much character driven, as in terms of the plot - not much actually happens.

Val was a really good narrator, and I really enjoyed reading about her struggles. Perhaps 'enjoy' is the wrong word, but she kept me reading and interested in what she had to say. I found that I could relate to her struggles about people not listening to what she has to say, and how they just assumed that because she was the boyfriend of the shooter that she must have been 'in on everything' that was going to happen and she didn't even try to stop it, even though she was in a critical condition in hospital after being shot in the leg... Val felt very real and even though the school massacre seems a little unbelievable (I've never heard of it happening and couldn't imagine it), everything about Hate List did feel to me to be real.

The other characters in the book also felt real, but I didn't think they were quite as well fleshed out as Val was. Perhaps this was just because the whole novel is told from Val's point of view so we are constantly in her head, but I felt that Jennifer Brown could have spent a little bit more time talking about the secondary characters - especially Jessica, Valerie's enemy turned friend. I think that she should have been a more important character and though the two girls had their ups and downs, I'm glad that they did become friends.

Another thing that I couldn't relate to was Val's relationship with her parents. Maybe I just don't realise that sometimes parents don't love their children, but I thought that if anybody believed her side of the story, it would be Val's parents because she's their DAUGHTER. I don't know, I could be wrong, but I think that the relationship Val had with her psychologist Dr. Hieler was a much better fit for her and her parents, if that makes sense.

Anyway, it's because of these reasons that I gave Hate List 4 Feet instead of 5. As I said before, I think this book could have been AMAZING and had the potential to be a must read for all teenagers around the world. However, I would still definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a good contemporary fiction novel, though I will warn you that there is very little (if any) romance, so if you pick it up looking for a good romance, you will be disappointed! Don't let that put you off - the lack of love interest really gives Val a chance to think for herself and move on from the trauma, and I think it was a very effective thing for Brown to do. So if you're looking for a thought-provoking, problem tackling YA read, then Hate List would be perfect.

My Rating:
I give it 4 Feet!


Challenges:
2011 100+ Reading Challenge #56

Comments

  1. I totally understand you when you say you couldn't understand the relationship with the parents, l sometimes struggle with this in the book even though l am sure it is sometimes sadly true.
    I loved Bitter End and l am hoping l like this as much.
    Thanks for the review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your review!!! The Hate List is definitely on my wishlist, because it sounds like a book I could really like.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I just finished Hate List a few weeks ago and loved it. A really good book that deals with a difficult topic. Columbine by Dave Cullen is on my TBR for a different perspective. Thanks for the great review!

    ReplyDelete

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