Thursday, February 10, 2011

Review: Hate List

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Goodreads description:

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 rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I'm split on how to rate this book. There were things I loved about it, and there were things I hated about it. It definitely didn't live up to my expectations, as I think this could have been a phenomenal read, considering the gripping topic.

The structure of this novel was extremely confusing. In the beginning, there was always one chapter dealing with the day of the shooting and the days immediately afterwards, and then a chapter on the time a summer later. Later, there were only chapters about the time after that summer. This would have been fine, but the novel was also split into a few "parts", even though there was nothing separating the parts from one another, content-wise. There were flashbacks to the time before the shooting in both types of chapters, and it was hard to keep all of that straight. I probably would have liked it better if the author had split it into two parts, one dealing with the shooting and the days immediately afterwards, and one dealing with the summer when she has to go back to school.

My problem with this novel is that I loved how Val dealt with the situation, but disliked what led up to it. The time before the shooting was not described realistically, in my opinion. Supposedly, Nick and Val were complete outsiders, but I thought they had a decent amount of friends – Stacey, Duce, Mason and David are all mentioned throughout the story, and while that’s not a huge amount of friends, it’s definitely not nobody. Also, Valerie talked about going to parties with Nick, which I don’t think real outsiders could / would have done.

I found it strange how much Nick (and Valerie) talked about death and suicide. Valerie saying she didn’t see what happened coming and not taking any of it seriously seemed unrealistic, as Nick talked about blowing up the school all the time, and (to me) usually not in a joking way.

However, I really liked how Val dealt with the aftermath of the shooting. Her relationship with her peers seemed realistic and I could relate to her split feelings towards Nick. I felt her confusion of not being able to see the Nick she loved as the same person as “Nick the Murderer”. As, a character, I loved Dr. Hieler and I liked his approach to helping Valerie, but I’m not sure that’s a realistic description of psychiatrist. Then again, I’ve never been to one, so what do I know? I also enjoyed Val’s relationship with Jessica, the girl she saved. The ending and Valerie’s speech were great, too.

What I didn’t like about this part of the novel was Valerie’s relationship with her parents – her mom saying “I can’t believe I gave birth to such a monster” and her dad saying he could never forgive her seemed too harsh – I understand they don’t trust their daughter anymore, but I couldn’t really imagine a parent saying something like that.

I’m not sure whether I would recommend this book – the thrilling topic kept the pages turning, but I had quite a few problems with the execution. If you’re looking for a depiction of reasons for school shooting, I don’t think this book will help, but if you’re expecting a depiction of what it’s like to deal with the aftermath of one, this book should be good. I’m not sure whether I’ll read the author’s next book, though.


  1. Reading the synopsis of this book makes it sounds like an amazing read, but I can see how if it's not written well it wouldn't be as powerful or moving as hoped.

  2. Yeah, I have to agree with you here. I really liked it and it was worth reading for me, but it just wasn't all it could have been. I did love Valerie's psychiatrist, though. Great review!

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  4. Here's the beauty about being a reviewer - you list what you liked and disliked (as you did) and then readers get to decide if their dislikes are the same as yours.

    I remind myself of that reality every time I'm duped by the way a book was marketed - for example, if a book has nothing but violent erotica and it was marketed as a young adult fiction - when I talk about how disappointed I am ... Someone who LOVES erotica is going to go buy that book (no matter how many stars I rate it).

    It makes me not feel so guilty when I don't like an author's work. Just talking about the book helps hook the right audience up to the right author.

    *Found you on Book Blogs. I'm following.*


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