15 July 2010

Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Okay, so usually I write these reviews for a teen audience -- whether or not teens are actually reading this collection or not isn't the question, and I love when my adult friends stumble across my reviews and take note too, but really -- my focus is on how materials would appeal to teens and young adults. (I'm pretty happy that lots of my adult friends are really teens at heart. Full of angst, drama, invincibility, and at least one with a little bit of self-depricating torment who still knows how to have a really good time.) As a review: Teens will certainly appreaciate the subject matter, the well-drawn, three-dimensional characaters, and the depth of emotion and healing involved throughout the story. The intensity of the material rivals only a few, like the well-recieved Boy Toy by Barry Lyga. My reaction to Jennifer Brown's Hate List, however, is impossibly subjective, and I can't help but respond to it as a 29-year-old reader.

Hate List involves some pretty powerful stuff. Valerie's boyfriend Nick orchastrates a shooting in their high school cafeteria, targeting specific people whose names appeared on the (soon-to-be infamous) Hate List. Valerie puts an end to the massacre, saves Skinny Barbie Rich Bitch Jessica Campbell's life, and gets shot in the leg before Nick turns the gun on himself. Valerie's the one who started the Hate List. She that everyone -- even her family -- blames her in part for the death of all the others.

Jennifer Brown is able to present every single character as a human being. Everything is gray in this novel, None of the emotions are black or white and no one is strictly good or bad, and this forces the reader to "see what's really there" instead of what we're trying to see, or want to see, or what we think we should see. Adults and kids alike make mistakes, react badly, handle situations wrong, and are trying to survive the best they can. But in particular, the depth of pain that exists inside Valerie's character is incredible. It has been a long time since I've read a story that has been so heart-wrenching or so inspiring. Valerie is stronger than she knows, even without a lot of support from anyone save her therapist (who, by the end of the story, you wish you had in your own life). It is impossible to imagine living in Valerie's world, but she gives you an incredible taste of survival.

Call number: YA BROWN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.


  1. TheTinyOne18:54

    The first paragraph really amused me. People in their 20's and 30's still can be teen's at heart. My mom is 41 and just read twilight. (Kind of embarassing though!)
    But the book kind of reminded me of the Columbine School Masscre. Jennifer reminds me of the brave teacher who died saving students. But she only got shot not killed. This book I deffently want to read before school starts. It looks like an amaizng book that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Thanks Kate for the heads up!

  2. Anonymous11:54

    Me to Kate, this book looks like great book to read over the summer. Hopefully the book will keep me on my feet.And I won't put it down. I'm going to check it out.

    - ???


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