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.