Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Ninja Reviews... The Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Sixteen-year-old Valerie considers herself weird. An outsider. A loser.  But that's okay because she's got other loser friends and a wonderful loser boyfriend, Nick, to help her get through the chaos of high school.  Valerie believes that she and Nick share a special connection because of the bullying they receive at school and all the family issues they go through at home.  They both hate the bullying and the fighting and, in a moment of anger, Valerie creates the Hate List, a notebook listing all the things she hates.  Nick gets in on it too, and before they know it they have created a huge list of everything from parents fighting to girls with blonde hair to specific people they cannot stand.

After Valerie encounters another bullying instance on one bus ride to school, Nick decides he's going to stand up for her and Valerie tags along to see her enemy take some heat.  But when Nick pulls out a gun in the middle of the school's Commons and shoots the defenseless girl, Valerie is utterly dumbfounded.  He begins to take revenge on the rest of the school, leaving six students and one teacher dead with many others wounded.  Valerie keeps him from taking a seventh student's life when she instead takes a bullet in the leg.  Nick then turns the gun on himself.

The fallout is brutal for Valerie. She had no idea that the Hate List would be used to target victims in her high school.  She had no idea it would become public.  She had no idea that Nick's hate was serious.  Though eventually she is proven to be innocent of involvement in the shooting, much of the community, including her parents, have a difficult time believing that.  With the help of a supportive therapist and a few unlikely friends at high school, Valerie begins the frustrating process of healing, forgiving herself, and finding her way through school.

This beautifully written and powerful novel uses snippets from the local newspaper threaded throughout Valerie's narration.  Valerie's character is sympathetic and beautifully presented.  The reader feels frustrated at what Valerie must go through and experiences the shunning and the fear with her.  Though the topic of this book is serious, I would recommend this title to high school students.  There are brief instances of cursing, kissing, and partying but these things only further the character development.

If you liked Hate List you might also enjoy:

13 Reasons Why
by Jay Asher
by Julia Hoban
 If I Stay
by Gayle Forman

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