Okay, this book was intense. I have great respect for authors who take on issues this large and do such an awesome job conveying the complexities and nuanced perspectives of all characters involved. I love that author Jennifer Brown didn't make Nick into a total monster. The crime he committed was heinous, to be sure, but we live in a world where certain levels of violence are accepted; certain kinds of social and economic conditions make it easy for Nicks to be shaped and have their fears fed; and where there is a lack of interest from the media and mainstream in representing those who happen to fall outside of the margins.
For me, HATE LIST conjured up memories of Columbine, the Montreal Massacre, and the Victoria, BC "girl gang" murder of Reena Virk. It was a tough read in some ways, but it was also powerful. And, because it is written from the perspective of Nick's girlfriend, Valerie, there was enough distance from the events that they weren't overwhelming.
I read it in one sitting. Do go out and get this book. Brown doesn't moralize or preach; she simply crafts a compelling story with very believable, layered characters, and leaves you with much to ponder at the end.
Here's a bit about the author, Jennifer Brown:
As a two-time winner of The Erma Bombeck Global Humor award and weekly columnist for The Kansas City Star, as well as Saturday Featured Blogger for Mom2MomKC.com, Jennifer spends a lot of time dressing up her dog for laughs and thinking of new ways to works words such as "Puh-lease" and "Ch-yeah!" into sentences. Jennifer grew up in the Kansas City, Missouri area, where she still lives with her husband, three kids, and whole herd of uncooperative pets.
And here's a summary of HATE LIST in the author's own words:
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend 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.
Here are Jennifer's answers to the Thorough Three:
NM: What is the age of your protagonist/s?
JB: They're seniors, so they're all around 17.
NM: What is the single, most important bit of advice you'd give to the You that was the same age as your protagonist/s?
JB: Trust me on this: In 20 years you won't even be able to remember the names of half these kids!
NM: Complete the following sentences:
Everyone should definitely, for sure _____________.
You should NEVER, EVER ___________. But if you absolutely must, make sure to ____________.
JB: Everyone should definitely, for sure go to Walt Disney World, skip down Main Street U.S.A., and eat ice cream while watching a "Wishes" fireworks show and contemplating that dreams really do come true.
You should NEVER, EVER send hate mail to someone. But if you absolutely must, make sure to at least use your spell check.
Duly noted. Thanks, Jennifer!
Readers: go out and get a copy of HATE LIST. You can order it here from Amazon and here from Indiebound. For more info on Jennifer and her work, visit her site.