Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of
seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school
to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she
still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former
friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with
the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends
and move on with her life.
Hate List is a powerful and emotional story that shows the aftermath of a school shooting. It is told from the perspective of the shooter's girlfriend, and it is very well-written. I sped through it, unable to put it down.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD
Valerie is a great main character. She has many feelings after the previous year's shooting because she was Nick's girlfriend. She started the Hate List with him. The Hate List was a notebook in which Valerie and Nick wrote down the people and things that they hated. Nick used the Hate List to choose his targets to shoot. Valerie feels guilty for not realizing Nick would do something like that. They often joked about the people they hated dying, but Valerie had no idea that Nick was serious. She still sometimes misses Nick, but she doesn't miss the monster who shot people. She misses the sweet guy who loved quoting Shakespeare. That's the Nick who she fell in love with.
Her family is very well-developed. Frankie is a supportive younger brother. He doesn't blame Valerie for what happened at school that day. At the same time, he also feels like his parents aren't paying attention to him any more since they're so worried about Valerie. Valerie's mom cares about Valerie, but she also doesn't trust her completely. She wants to protect Valerie from the world while also protecting the world from Valerie. She is a well-done character. Readers can see how she is struggling with accepting her daughter's role in the shooting, yet trying not to blame Valerie. I did not really like Valerie's dad. He is cheating on her mom with his secretary. He tells Valerie he can never forgive her for her Hate List.
I enjoyed reading about Valerie's friendship with Jessica Campbell. Jessica was a girl who often bullied Valerie before the shooting. She called Valerie Sister Death, a name given to Valerie by another bully, Christy Bruter. Jessica was on the Hate List, and Nick was going to shoot her. When he was aiming for Jessica, Valerie knocked him over and got shot in the leg. Jessica feels that Valerie saved her life, and she reaches out to her and the two become friends. Valerie is reluctant to trust Jessica at first, but she soon realizes that Jessica is being genuine. The last scene in the book, when Jessica makes a speech, really shows the friendship between the two girls.
If you like YA contemporary that is heavy and emotional, read this book.