May 2, 2008 is the day that forever changed life at Garvin High School. On that day, Nick Levin opened fire on the students in the Commons before school. The reason behind this atrocity? The Hate List. This list was a compilation of names of people that Nick and his girlfriend, Valerie Leftman, hated for what they did to anyone and everyone. It ranged from kids at school who bullied them to parents at home who didn’t care. What Valerie had always assumed was a way to blow off steam, turned out to be fuel for the hatred that was dwelling in Nick.
After a long recuperation from being shot in the leg while trying to stop her now former boyfriend, and being determined a “non-participant” in the massacre, Valerie is trying to move on with her life. She feels like her therapist is the only one looking out for her because her dad won’t forgive her, her mother doesn’t trust her, her friends (and Nick’s) have abandoned her, and her brother just doesn’t know how to act around her. She hesitantly starts her senior year at the same school with no expectations for anything. The stares, glares, and nasty treatment she completely expected, but not the attempt at friendship from one of the Hate List’s most central entries: Jessica Campbell. She embodied everything that Nick and Val couldn’t stand not to mention she ridiculed them incessantly. Now Val finds herself on the receiving end of Jessica’s kindness and attempt at friendship.
Val must find her way through this year without causing any more pain. She cannot change what happened and she cannot undo anything that was done, but she can help herself and others move past this tragic time without trying to wipe it completely from their memories. It must be remembered so that it won’t happen again.
Hate List is an absolute roller-coaster of emotion. It’s told only through Valerie’s experience, but it cuts back and forth from May 2 and the days following, to present day. There are also little newspaper articles about the victims so that we can see how the information was presented to the town. It takes a serious look at the fallout from one of these horrific events. It’s not something that these towns quickly recover from and then sing “Kumbaya” together. It’s a gritty, rough experience that scars most people for the rest of their lives. The living have a hard time dealing with the reality that their lives became.
Valerie and Ginny Baker are two incredible examples of some aftermath that must be dealt with in these situations. Anyone who ever associated with the perpetrator (especially someone close) usually catches at least part of the blame for the incident. Val caught a lot as she was implicated as being an organizer. Her experiences in the school after the attack were strained at best and downright hostile at its worst. Ginny Baker’s a stunning example of what can happen to those who live. They feel guilty, they feel betrayed, and they can often times become depressed with suicidal thoughts. While I am not claiming to be an expert, nor is the author Jennifer Brown, the portrait seen within this book is incredibly accurate and stunning.
Jennifer’s characters were vibrant and true to life. I believed that the characters acted and reacted consistently within their own world. I would expect a grief-stricken teenage girl to wander off on her own and never give a thought to what others might think about it. I can also see angry people trying to get revenge on someone they believed involved in hurting a loved one. The narrative was well-written and more truthful than anything even some of my most vivid nightmares could create. While I wish many people never had to experience things like this, we live in a cruel world. I hope that this book can open people’s eyes and their hearts both before and, if necessary, after this kind of a tragedy.
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Reviewed by Laura from Duraleigh Road.