People hate. That's our reality. People hate and are hated and carry grudges and want punishments ... I don't know if it's possible to take hate away from people. Not even people like us, who've seen firsthand what hate can do. We're all hurting. We're all going to be hurting for a long time. And we, probably more than anyone else out there, will be searching for a new reality every day. A better one ... But in order to change reality you have to be willing to listen and to learn. And to hear. To actually hear.
On May 2 of her junior year, life changed for Valerie and the other students at Garvin High School when her boyfriend opened fire on select students, killing some, injuring others, including Valerie herself.
It begin with the hate list, a list that to Val was nothing more than venting on paper about the people who bullied her, called her "Sister Death" and made her life miserable. But unknown to her, for Nick it became a hit list.
On the day of the shooting, Val was still angry with Christy who daily bullied her on the bus and the day before had broken her MP3 player. So when Nick said he was going to take care of it for her, she followed him into the school smiling at that the thought that Christy was about to get what she deserved.
But never did she think that Nick planned to kill Christy and the others on the list. Val tries to help the victims and to stop Nick, and finally gets between him and a victim ending the shooting. Val herself is shot in the leg just before Nick kills himself.
The story begins five months later when Val returns to the same school as a senior. Some people consider her responsible for the shootings assuming she was in on the planning, while others consider her a hero for putting herself in harms' way to save another student.
The book uses newspaper accounts to fill in details of the shooting. The rest is told present day as Val returns to school and faces the students who consider her guilty.
While the book is about the aftermath of a school shooting, it's a character driven story. It's Val's story.
There are a lot of things I like about the story:
- We meet characters who remind us of students just like them that we encountered in our school years (and may have put on our own hate list), or for teens readers, ones they are still encountering.
- We see the good side of Nick through Val's memories of the times they spent together.
- We sit in on Val's sessions with a counselor who really cares about her healing.
- We have a front row seat as Val realizes that the students who bullied her were more than just bullies; they were real kids with their own interests, hobbies and dreams.
- Even after a year has passed, things haven't magically returned to normal. And they probably never will. But the kids learn to cope and go on.
What bothers me about the story:
- A lot of kids today are bullied at school, but they don't take a gun to school and hunt down those bullies. Nick is presented as being different, but in real life, he probably would have been a kid with a known mental health issue that had been ignored.
- A lot of the students failed to admit their role in the events prior to the shooting. But maybe that is real life.
- And of course, there is no faith element in the story. God doesn't always stop the crap that happens in real life, but he does help those who turn to him for healing.
The Hate List received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA “Perfect Ten,” and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year.
You can read about the author Jennifer Brown on her website
If you are a teen who is in a school that doesn't feel safe, seek help. If you think someone in your school is dangerous, tell someone.
Safe School Ambassadors is a program for schools.
The nation's most effective bystander education program harnesses the power of students to prevent and stop bullying and violence. Since 2000, this field-tested and evidence-based model has equipped over 52,000 4-12th grade students in over 1,400 schools in 32 states, 2 Canadian provinces, Guam and Puerto Rico with the communication and intervention skills to prevent and stop emotional and physical bullying and improve school climate.
Also check out SAVE: Students Against Violence Everywhere
And especially for girl bullies Mean Girls Aren't Cool
I have been working on a list of fiction books that address issues. Please feel free to add books in the comments section.
Hate List Jennifer Brown secular
The Hate List Jennifer Brown secular