Hate List by Jennifer Brown

416W7yBUwwL__SL500_AA240_Valerie’s boyfriend Nick has died. He committed suicide after opening fire in their school cafeteria and accidentally shooting Valerie in the leg. Despite inadvertently saving a classmate’s life and putting an end to the shooting, Valerie becomes implicated in the massacre because of a list she created of people she hated that Nick apparently used as a checklist.  Months later, as Valerie returns to school, she must come to terms with the guilt she feels and the responsibility put on her by the school and the victims.  As she struggles for understanding and forgiveness we learn that first impressions aren’t always correct, suffering is part of the high school experience and forgiveness can heal all wounds.

Hate List  is the debut novel by Jennifer Brown. While slightly disjointed by flashbacks and news reports the overall narrative is not broken up. Rather the flashbacks and news reports serve as pieces of a puzzle that build towards an ultimate picture. They greatly add to the depth of all the characters and the power of the story. Through them  we are able to see Valerie’s beautiful memories of Nick and see that he was so much more than a high school shooter, how the lives of everyone has been affected and how Valerie could come to miss all the warning signs. The book is beautifully written and all the characters are vibrant (I especially loved Bea). Brown is very tasteful when it comes to the shooting and is able to portray the seriousness of the event without becoming too graphic. Yet the story really is not about the shooting, it is more about bullying, the high school experience, families, growing up and ultimately forgiveness. I was so surprised with how much I loved this book, I strongly recommend it. It is compassionate, heartbreaking, beautiful and hard to put down. It is well-suited for older teens, both genders and even adults.

If you like Hate List you might also enjoy: Give A Boy a Gun by Todd Stasser, Names Will Never Hurt Me by Jamie Adoff, On the Fringe by Donald R. Gallo and Shattering Glass by Gail Giles

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