Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Hate List by Jennifer Brown


I've read several books by Jennifer Brown and so far, none of them have come close to reaching the sheer magnificence of the HATE LIST. I thought I had read it as a teenager, but it seems like I actually read it for the first time in my early twenties. Even so, I'm still including it on the list of my rereading project, which consists of books I loved when I was a young woman that I'm checking out again as a full grown adult.

HATE LIST is about Valerie, who is the survivor of a school shooting. She's also the girlfriend of the shooter, who killed himself after shooting several of their classmates and teachers dead. Valerie stopped the bullet from hitting one of her enemies, Jessica, before she was shot herself and is grappling with survivor's guilt... and guilt-guilt as well. Because the people Nick killed came from a notebook she kept called the Hate List, which is where she kept a log of all the people who bullied her and her boyfriend.

I know that some people are going to take issue with this book for the premise alone, which is about the perspective of a shooting from someone who is partially responsible (or is perceived to be that way). But Valerie didn't wield the gun and she didn't know what her boyfriend was going to do, and plenty of us have said things about others in private or among friends ("oh, I could just KILL her") that could make us look guilty if that person suddenly dropped dead. Her relationship with Nick was toxic and their depression became the bond between the two of them, and even though Valerie could sense him drifting away and going down a darker path, she didn't necessarily realize just how violent that path would become.

Personally, I don't think that HATE LIST makes apologies for school shooters. Valerie's story is a story of healing as she comes to terms with her own guilt and also that her boyfriend did a truly horrible thing. It's about putting a human face to the violence that occurs on both sides of a shooting, which I don't think a lot of people do, and addresses a lot of different subjects in a complex and interesting way. Valerie's family dynamic was heartbreaking and shows how parents can sometimes struggle to reconcile their own desires with what is best for their kids. The bullying Nick and Valerie received at school was actually pretty similar to what I faced in high school myself, and I, too, was depressed and filled with powerless fury over it. The aftermath and the students' reactions-- both to what happened and also to Valerie, once she makes the choice to return-- felt very realistic. I also liked that therapy played such a prevalent and positive role in the book and in Valerie's recovery.

This was just a really great, really emotional, really real book-- and I really enjoyed it. (And yes, the ending made me tear up.)

4.5 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.