Reviews for Hate List

Booklist Reviews 2009 September #1
It is September, and senior Valerie Leftman is heading back to school. Five months earlier, her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire in the school cafeteria, killing six and wounding others before committing suicide. Despite being wounded herself while trying to stop Nick and save classmates, Val has been the focus of police investigations and rumors due to the Hate List, composed of classmates' names, which she created to vent her frustration about bullies. Struggling with guilt and grief, Val begins school as the ultimate outcast, but she finds one unexpected ally. Most books about school shootings focus on the horrifying event itself, but this debut novel breaks ground by examining the aftermath. Brown uses a creative structure of alternating narratives that incorporate excerpts from newspapers. The characters, including the many adults, are well drawn and become more nuanced as Val heals and gains perspective. Filled with unanswered questions, this compelling novel will leave teens pondering the slippery nature of perception and guilt. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2009 September #1
She doesn't have the answers for why her boyfriend chose a May morning to kill six classmates and wound several others, but Valerie Leftman is one of the only people who can still remember the good in Nick Levil. As she builds her post-Nick identity during her senior year, Valerie forms an unlikely friendship with one of the shooting victims, explores art therapy and watches her family structure dissolve. Blending flashbacks, current events and newspaper articles together, Brown creates a compelling narrative that drives readers forward. Valerie's fractured relationships break along genuine stress lines, creating rich and realistic characters; the cathartic argument Valerie has with her brother and parents writhes with pent-up emotion. The author creates an appropriately complex narrative for the issues, though her attempts to address every single aspect lead to some simplified resolutions. Authentic and relevant, this debut is one to top the charts. (Fiction. YA) Copyright Kirkus 2009 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2009 September #2

When Val and her boyfriend Nick write the names of the people who torment or annoy them in a notebook dubbed the "Hate List," she has no idea that Nick will use it as a checklist the day he brings a gun to school, killing several people, including himself, and wounding many more. Brown's riveting debut initially cuts between the day of the shooting in May and the following September when school begins again, then focuses on the aftermath of the shooting and the rest of Val's senior year; newspaper clips are interspersed throughout. Val's guilt is explored in realistic scenes with a therapist; she helped write the list ("[it] started as a joke. A way to vent frustration") but also stopped the shooting by taking a bullet for popular student Jessica, now Val's staunchest defender. Val's complicated relationship with her family, Jessica and the surviving victims, as well as how she comes to terms with Nick's betrayal, are piercingly real, and the shooting scenes wrenching. Her successes are hard-won and her setbacks, such as her father's inability to forgive her, painfully true to life. Ages 15-up. (Sept.)

[Page 50]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal Reviews 2009 October

Gr 8 Up--At the end of their junior year, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend pulls a gun in the Commons, leaving six students and a teacher dead and many others wounded. Valerie is hit by a bullet in the leg trying to stop him, just before he ends his own life. Until that point, Valerie had no idea that the "hate list" that she and Nick created would be used to target victims in a vengeful shooting spree. For her, the list of tormentors was a way to ease the pain of being bullied and an outlet against the constant fighting between her parents. Although the police investigation reveals that Valerie had nothing to do with the actual shootings, many people in her community, including her parents, have a hard time believing that she is not at fault, too. With the help of a patient and insightful therapist, Valerie bravely returns to school after the summer to face the challenges before her. Told by Valerie in then-and-now chapters, with a few "excerpts" from local newspaper articles added for perspective, this is a startling, powerful, and poignant account of the incidents leading up to, immediately following, and continuing through the teen's senior year of realization and recovery. Valerie is stronger than she knows--a beautifully drawn character who has suffered pain, guilt, and incredible stress as she heals from the shooting, the loss of a troubled boyfriend she deeply loved, and difficult family circumstances. Readers drawn to Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why (Razorbill, 2007) and Brooke Taylor's Undone (Walker, 2008) will snap this novel up as well.--Diane P. Tuccillo, Poudre River Public Library District, Fort Collins, CO

[Page 121]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

VOYA Reviews 2009 December
Valerie returns to school after her boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on many of their classmates and a teacher before killing himself. It is a tough scenario for anyone to face, but the survivors view her with hatred and suspicion. In selecting his victims, Nick used the list they made in what she thought was a means of blowing off steam. It contained all the people who treated them badly. Valerie must contend with the gossip and glares at school and at home, as her parents freak at the slightest hint of adolescent angst. In addition, Valerie must reconcile the image of Nick as a monster with the tender, troubled, Shakespeare-loving boy who also loved her. How can she mourn him while dealing with what he did? This novel ought to be the last written about a fictional high school shooting because it is difficult to imagine any capable of handling it better. Brown deftly traverses highly controversial ground with a respectful touch that never veers into sensationalism. She never bends to stereotypes nor settles for easy answers. The finale is a pitch-perfect tribute to the people who died or bear scars from Nick's actions, but there is no satisfying conclusion, which is itself satisfying. Also noteworthy: for a therapist, Brown gives Valerie Dr. Rex Hieler, easily one of the best adult characters in YA literature. He provides an oasis of comfort for both the character and readers in a story that is as sensitive and honest as it is spellbinding.--Matthew Weaver 5Q 5P S A/YA Copyright 2009 Voya Reviews.