Second Look: Jennifer Brown’s HATE LIST (PBK, 2010)

Alas! The quiet one actually writes a review!  For as much as I love to read, I’ve had my nose in textbooks.  I apologize.

After finishing 13 Reasons Why for the second time, I decided that I had to go out and BUY Hate List by Jennifer Brown and actually read it.  It’s been on the shelves at the library since it’s HC release in 2009, and I won’t tell you how many times I’ve actually checked it out…

I couldn’t put it down.  It became an obsessive read.  There’s something about it that drew me in.  Brown’s writing is absolutely fantastic, and Valerie is such a real, heartfelt character.


The story focuses around Valerie, a junior-senior when the book takes place.  She is the typical outcast at Garvin High, where she hides behind hoodies and earplugs and endures endless teasing by Christy Bruter and other students of the ‘popular crowd.’  Enter Nick, her ideal mate.  One day, after a particularly bad encounter with Bruter, Val is relieved that Nick is going to confront her.  Only to find that Nick has a gun and shoots and injures many students that morning on May 2nd.

The story alternates in four parts.  Most of the story starts with alternating chapters between the morning of May 2nd, 2008 and present day.  There are also small “news articles” placed in the beginnings of each chapter to tell the readers a little more about the students who were injured or killed that morning.

The plot focuses on Val’s recovery, post-shooting, and her personal journey of realizing that Nick may not have been the person she thought he was.  With help from an ultra-hip therapist (seriously, if I knew they were all like Dr. Hieler, I’d go to one tomorow), Val returns to Garvin High for her senior year.

The story is amazing.  It’s not only the story of a school shooting, but of the relationship of friends and loved ones with the shooter.  And a very real look into high schools, post-shooting.  Does the world change?  Or does it stay the same?

Val’s voice is honest and at times brutal.  She fights to remember her Nick, versus the Nick that shot kids in the Commons at Garvin High.  All the while, she battles being back at school and her father’s continual distance from the family.

Brown weaves so many layers together in this book, you might want to read it twice to catch it all.  I won’t lie – I teared up a few times.  A definite recommendation!

Official Rating: 9/10.  Go.  Read.  Especially if you liked 13 Reasons Why or Jumping Off Swings.




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