I don’t even know where to start when it comes to my latest read, Hate List by Jennifer Brown. Given the recent shooting in Arizona, this book was especially powerful. It looks at a point of view not often considered–someone who loved the one responsible for such a tragedy. Hate List deals with a school shooting, and I’m sure that some educators, parents, community members, and students will want to keep this book out of school libraries, but I strongly urge those people to take the time to actually read this book. It provides readers with a very real view of the guilt someone could feel in not seeing what someone was capable of, in still loving the person that committed such atrocities, in feeling responsible for what happened. Most of all, Hate List is about forgiveness, which is something all of us could stand to learn a little more about.
Everything changed on May 2, 2008. On that morning, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in the commons area at their high school. He killed some and wounded others, including Valerie, before turning the gun on himself. Valerie is now left to deal with what happened in the aftermath, including facing her own actions leading up to the shooting, saving an enemy’s life, going to school again, and simply surviving each day. She knows Nick’s actions were monstrous and destroyed many lives, including her own, but she still remembers the loving boyfriend only she seemed to know. How could she have not seen he would do something like this? And why did he seem to think, just before she stepped in front of his gun, that she supported his actions?
As Valerie reflects on what happened, her relationship with Nick, and facing going back to school, she is forced to face some harsh truths. Was she somehow to blame for what happened? Yes, she and Nick had a Hate List, filled with the names of people who bullied or wronged them in some way, but they never really took that seriously. At least, she didn’t think so. Could she have stopped him or seen what he was planning? Can anyone forgive her for her part in the shooting, or for loving Nick? Can she even forgive herself?
Read Hate List to discover what it’s like for one girl who truly loved someone who committed horrible acts and how she learns to cope with the guilt that comes from surviving, especially when so many around her wish she hadn’t. Can Valerie move on? Does she even want to? Read Hate List by Jennifer Brown to find out.
I really think Hate List is a wonderful book. It is by no means a comfortable read, but it could serve to open up discussions in high schools and beyond about dealing with bullying, violence, and the aftermath of tragedy. It could also help people to really see that those who commit these crimes have loved ones, too. These are often the forgotten victims that no one really wants to see. Something to think about.
For more information on Hate List and author Jennifer Brown, visit http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/.