Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Review: Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Valerie may be the most hated person in town after her boyfriend Nick kills a teacher and several students at their high school. Even though she didn’t shoot and was in fact shot herself while shielding a fellow classmate (student council president Jessica), she did help Nick create the ‘hate list’ that he used to pick his targets. After a summer in therapy, Valerie is back for her senior year, hoping to put the past behind her.

The focus of HATE LIST is survivor’s guilt and how all of those affected by the tragedy must work through their heartache, confusion and hate. By revolving around Valerie, an unwitting accessory to the crime, and by including a moving subplot where the formerly snotty Jessica attempts to befriend Valerie, the narrative is able to really dig deep into the themes of forgiveness and redemption. And Valerie is a complex creation – frustrating in her stubbornness and obliviousness but ultimately sympathetic enough to root for.

Though some chapter headings begin with news articles about the victims and there are flashbacks to the day of the shooting as well as to scenes of Valerie and Nick’s seemingly happy relationship, the structure is mostly linear. It’s a solid approach, though not as flashy or shocking as fellow school shooting novels such as Jodi Piccoult’s NINETEEN MINUTES or Lionel Shriver’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (my review).

HATE LIST comes out September 1st in hardcover. Find out more about it on the author's website.

PS: The tear on the cover is very fitting since I did have to shed a few tears at the end of this powerful novel.

30 comments:

JKB said...

This sounds like a very interesting book. I also follow her on Twitter; looks like I'll be ordering yet another YA !

Thanks, L!! :-)

Alissa said...

Sounds like it could be a heavy read, but definitely a fresh approach for the school violence thing.

Jen said...

Sounds really interesting, also I love the cover!

Heidi Willis said...

Wow! What a powerful sounding book.

I haven't read Nineteen Minutes (after being disappointed by a few prior Picoult books, though I love others).

Having just read Columbine (by Dave Cullen) I can see how this could be a great story, and very relevant. I've wondered if some of Eric and Dylan's friends have had a really rough time of it.

I'm putting this on my list of books to read!

Yan said...

Wow! Seems good by your review!

bermudaonion said...

That sounds like an emotionally powerful book.

Elizabeth said...

I feel like the success of a book like this would really turn on making plausible the character's relationship with a boyfriend who could carry out a mass shooting, without making her unsympathetic. Tough line to walk, but it would be fascinating if pulled off well.

Lenore said...

That's a great point Elizabeth, and not to give anything away, but I think Brown did that pretty successfully. It is not really a book about WHY Nick did it, and honestly, after reading it, I still don't understand that about him (but then, neither does Valerie).

The Mapless Traveler said...

It is always hard for me to read these kinds of books as I went to Virginia Tech and was still living and working in Blacksburg when the awful shootings there occurred. It is odd because I used to love reading books like this -- not for the carnage factor, but to learn how someone might react when faced with such an awful thing happening in their own school or hometown. Now I can't read something like that without shedding tears myself, as I understand perfectly well how someone would react (although thankfully I've never been in this particular main character's shoes).
This book does sound very interesting, and I've been wanting to read Nineteen Minutes and the Columbine book by Dave Cullen. I think it's extremely important that we fully understanding all the factors that cause mass shootings to occur. The chill that goes down my spine when I read about a new mass shooting in the news is unavoidable now. Maybe I will pick up this book. Thank you for a very thoughtful review.
~Martha

Lenore said...

Mapless - I'm so sorry to hear that! I also have trouble reading books about dying mothers for the same reason...

Zibilee said...

This looks like a very intense book. I think it sounds really interesting and will try to pick it up when it comes out. Great review, and thanks!

Lauren said...

This sounds like a must-read. I'm generally more one for fantasy/sci-fi, but this really sounds fascinating.

lilly said...

It remiands me a little bit of Lamb's The Hour I first Believed in that the survivor's guilt is there, it's about the school shooting and news articles' inserts. But it still sounds like a good book to read.

B.A.M. Book Reviews said...

This sounds like something I would totally love. :)

-Briana

Liviania said...

Not sure this is one for me, even though it sounds interesting. Emotional books take it out of me. I don't like to finish a book upset. (I tend to let personal hang-ups get in the way of reading a good book. I'd be a terrible modernist.)

Pixie said...

This was one of my Friday Finds last week. I cant wait to read this book. Great Review.

Ro Wi Jo said...

Reading this now, loving it. Thanks for the review!

Jessica Kennedy said...

I won a copy of this and I've been putting it off because of the subject matter. I find it heavy and I'm not sure if I can handle that right now.

I'll give it a shot but I'm going to have to brace myself before I plunge into it. Maybe in a few months after my daughter has already started Kindergarten....

H said...

This sounds like an interesting angle to approach the story from.

Staci said...

This one is so going on my list right now!!! We've had students create hate lists at my middle school in the past. I've read both Nineteen Minutes and Kevin, so I am interested in this YA book.

Thao said...

Woah this book made you shed a few tears, it must be impressive. I have to try to snag a copy soon.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

It's a difficult subject, but it sounds like it would be an interesting approach. I had never heard of it before, thanks for the review!

Linda said...

this sounds like one I want to read. Guess I'll have to put it on my "to buy" list.

Janssen said...

I just starting this last night and was immediately sucked into it. So far, it's amazing.

Nymeth said...

Sounds like a heavy but very worthwhile read.

fitz12383 said...

I just got an ARC of this book yesterday. Thought it looked great; thanks for the review!

Pam said...

Wow this looks really intense. I've seen a few great reviews of it, though so I may look into it.

writemeg said...

Wow -- this sounds great, but very intense. I've been too afraid to dive into books like Nineteen Minutes for fear that I'd have some sort of emotional breakdown... I was 13 when Columbine happened, and it had such a profound impact on me! Still, I love books that can really create a dialogue... I think I'll look for it. Great review!

Joanne said...

Sounds amazing! I'm adding it to my wishlist asap.

Anonymous said...

I started this book a while back and it freaked me out so much. I love horror storries and everything, but this is so real. You feel immediatley sympathetic for the helpless main character. I wanted to jump in the book and tell everyone to forgive her. Though it's a very powerful read, I didn't finish when I first began reading it. I started it again a few days ago and finished quickly. Once you get passed how heart-wrenchingly awful you feel about the events that occured in the story, it's a great and powerful read.