My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Actual Rating: 4.25
Oh man, if I could describe this book in one word, it would be thought-provoking.
How many times have you wished for someone to die, or to feel the pain that you were feeling?
How many times have you been consumed with hatred or disgust or pain that you just wanted to end it – not only for yourself, but for everyone else too?
For me, too many times.
Jennifer Brown’s Hate List is about the aftermath of a school shooting. Valerie, the main character, struggles with accepting herself and being accepted by those in society as the girlfriend of the perpetrator (Nick), who not only shot up their enemies, but shot himself as well.
Valerie is something of an antihero – she helped create a list of victims (although she didn’t know what it would become), but on the other hand, she also stopped the shooting by jumping in front of a potential victim, resulting in Nick’s immediate suicide.
So what is she? An accomplice or a savior?
It is this part of her identity that she now struggles with – she is torn between guilt and innocence, and it is this same distinction that others are too quick to make.
As Valerie’s identity is blurred, her family falls apart, along with the lives of those around her.
Hate List follows Valerie (and everyone she knows) as they try to come to terms with this tragedy and move on with their lives.
The writing is so powerful.
As someone who not only holds grudges but also has a pretty volatile temper, Jennifer Brown’s Hate List hit me on a very personal level, where I not only connected with Valerie, but also with Nick and Jessica and Duce and everyone in between.
This book raises a lot of questions as well, especially concerning issues of gun control, mental health, and bullying – but it focuses more on the last two, putting into the spotlight concerns such as:
What is the breaking point? How do you control the difference between feeling anger and acting on it?
And when it is bullying that drives someone to do something like this, who receives the blame?
After reading this book, I would say: a little bit of everyone.
People are so used to seeing school shooters as two-dimensional, flat criminals or evil masterminds, but what Brown does is turn Nick into someone who is so layered and multifaceted so that readers don’t only as Nick the shooter, but also as Nick the victim, Nick the boyfriend, and Nick the best friend.
It is hard to imagine that they are not all cruel and heartless killers, but it’s true – maybe they’re just people who have been in pain for too long.
But what doesn’t change is that what they do hurts everyone – this book is a powerful reminder that these things happen, and that these things are real.
School Shootings, misrepresentations in media, bullying – Brown touches up on so many issues in real life and she does it in an absolutely touching and captivating way.
Oh, but one more thing. The parents in this are absolutely a w f u l. They are distrustful, unsupportive, selfish, you name it – and although it’s true that sometimes my dislike of characters is what ruins a book for me, this time it was different. It was because of the way Valerie was frustrated and hurt because of those characters that allowed me to relate to this and connect with this book on a personal level.
All in all, I’d say that this was a heartbreakingly real book about a girl’s journey to accepting herself and dealing with her own guilt and anger. But thats not all this book is – it’s a story about everyone’s path to understanding, and most of all, the difference between controlling your pain or letting it control you.