Hate List by Jennifer Brown: not just about a school shooting

Title: hate listHate LIst

Author: Jennifer Brown

Genre: YA contemporary

Length: 405 pages

Published by: Little, Brown

Source: library


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.


So this book starts with a school shooting. But it’s about so much more than that.

To start out with, I made the mistake of comparing this book to Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes.

nineteen minutes


Jodi Picoult is one of my ultimate favourite writers, despite writing for adults, so it was definitely an unfair comparison. And why did I compare them? Because they both involve a school shooting. Nineteen Minutes is an amazing book, but in its way, so is Hate List. The main difference, I think, is that Hate List focuses more on what happens afterwards – how individuals pick their lives back up in the wake of a terrible tragedy.

This is a book about Valerie, not so much about the school shootingI sympathised with her completely – everyone keeps blaming her for what happened, even though it was her boyfriend who started the shooting, not her. She had no idea it would lead to this, and I believed her character. Nobody else seemed to, though.

I think that was the most heart-breaking part of this book – how even her own parents looked at Valerie and saw a monster, or someone responsible for that awful tragedy. That made me so mad! Sure, everyone has flaws, but blaming Valerie for what happened wasn’t fair.

There was a lot of focus on family in this book. That’s good. I like families in books. Because it’s realistic, you know? Families are important. It was sad how this family was kind of fracturing – a lot of the book was sad. But it was about moving on, and that wasn’t all tragic.

I also loved the characterisation. The bitchy popular girl trope? It existed. It was there. But the characters changed. It’s not like the school shooting was this event that brought everyone together and made them treasure their existence or anything. No. Because that’s not what happens in real life – there were still the same petty arguments and conflicts within the student body. But I loved how Jessica, who used to bully Valerie, completely turned around and tried to be friends with her.

(side note: this is going to be my reaction GIF until the end of time)

The only thing that affected my enjoyment of this book was Nick. Nick was the shooter, Valerie’s boyfriend. And I know that the story’s mostly about Valerie. But even so, I didn’t get a real handle on Nick’s motivation for shooting all those people. I didn’t sympathise with him at all. I didn’t get why Valerie wanted to be with him. The scenes of bullying were very rare, and it felt like I was being told how much they were bullied, rather than shown. I would have liked to see more of what happened before the shooting.

Also, it was a little…long? There seemed to be a lot of unnecessary writing, I felt. Descriptions that could have been cut without damaging the story.

But despite that, this is a moving story about how individuals cope with the tragedies in their lives. I even teared up a little at the end.

And if you liked this, I definitely recommend Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (or vice versa – read this if you’ve read Nineteen Minutes). They’re both about school shootings, but so different in the way they’re told.


My rating: 4/5 Wonderkitties


16 thoughts on “Hate List by Jennifer Brown: not just about a school shooting

  1. Ohhh, this one really sent my head spinning. I couldn’t BELIEVE how cruel and vicious everyone was to Valerie. Like even her parents?! Why couldn’t they believe her… It really messed with my feels, I tell you. And I know it’s SUCH a serious topic but I think the author handled it brilliantly. I kind of probably agree about Nick, although I read it like 3 years ago before I was really into reading LOTS of YA so I’m not sure what I’d thinking of it if I’d read it now. Still. Definitely brings back the feels.

    • I KNOW. Like, her parents were soooooo awful. It’s a very serious topic, I know. And I read Nineteen Minutes right after the Columbine shooting, so it affected me a lot more than this one, I think. You know, it’s interesting about the books I used to read before I really got into YA – I think I like them a lot more as well 🙂

  2. This one looks pretty good! I haven’t read anything by the author (or Jodi Picoult for that matter — should I read her?) however I’ve heard a lot about this book. Definitely adding it to my TBR list. 🙂

    And oh, that gif is golden! 😛

  3. OOOOOH School shooting? I am very intrigued now. I haven’t read a book with one and so I’m curious to see how it is dealt with. Also, glad that there’s a large family focus because I love books with family focus.

    Lovely review, Em <33

  4. This is a maybe book for me. The topic of the book seems pretty iffy to me, but if it’s more about everyone rebuilding their lives after the tragedy, I might check it out… However, I love when I can really sympathize with the main character of a book, and I LOVE LOVE LOVE books that focus on family or friendships.

  5. I love popping by on here, it’s where I end up picking up books that I wouldn’t normally add to my list. Incredibly review, the synopsis wasn’t enough for me to take a chance, but your review has me sold. It sounds incredibly emotional and the torment reminds me a little of The Truth About Alice. It’s confrontational. but the feels are enough to set off corner rocking. Thanks for sharing Em, I’ll have to grab a copy ❤

  6. Pingback: Stacking the Shelves – the wonderful Alice in Wonderland | The Loony Teen Writer

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