Hate List by Jennifer Brown Review

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Title: Hate List
Author: Jennifer Brown (Twitter)
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Publish Date: October 5, 2010
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Pages: 432
Source: Personal Copy

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.
Life as Val knew it ended in an explosion of gunfire...gunfire unleashed by her boyfriend, Nick. The two spent their high school lives together as self-professed outcasts, enduring bullying and relentless teasing and, together, developed a "hate list" which named those who plagued their daily lives. Val meant it. She hated these people. She didn't know that Nick hated these people enough to kill them all. Now, Val and the rest of Garvin High are still trying to come to terms with the heinous crime that rocked their town, their school and their lives. But first, Val needs to come to terms with her own part in it and heal, so that she can actually move forward.

For those of you who regularly follow my blog, you know that I'm a huge fan of issue-based contemporary novels. I believe that, when done well, these books have an enormous impact and the ability to make you think, feel and, in some cases, change. Hate List is the epitome of why I love issue books. Dark and brooding, it bores into the very roots of evil, bringing them to the surface and displaying our own darkest urges for all to see. Jennifer Brown has written a novel which encourages readers to feel and to embrace our own emotions so that, along with the characters of this book, we can heal. Raw, challenging and incredibly thought-provoking, Hate List is a book that I'm certain will stay with me for a very long time.

I've previously read Bitter End by Ms. Brown, so I knew that I was going to get quality storytelling with Hate List, but I can honestly say that I didn't know just how much I was going to feel for these characters. From the start, Val keeps us at arm's length. She's angry, she's hurt and she's extremely confused, and the beauty of the novel is that we, as readers, feel and live those exact same emotions as the story starts to unravel and we understand the events of that day. I though that Val would be a more challenging character to access because of the walls she'd put up, but I was pleased to find that, little by little, she starts to expose the vulnerable core that she's hidden for so long. As she does so, we get the chance to see this pain and this inability to come to terms with what Nick has done. Nick, in large part, I felt was almost an afterthought until the very end. We see his actions and we recognize just how irreparably he's damaged this school, this town and definitely his girlfriend. However, we don't really get to see him until the very end. I was quite certain this was a weakness until the final scene, in which I understood the true purpose of Nick's role in Hate List. The secondary characters are phenomenal in this book. Jessica, the epitome of the popular girl, transforms immeasurably through this novel and, in doing so, we watch as her interactions with Val transform, as well. I felt such distress for Ginny through the novel, and I felt such incredible anger towards Val's father, seeing his anger as rooted in selfishness, though I began to realize that it was actually masking his own discontent and confusion. Hate List ripped my heart out numerous times, but finally let all its emotion bleed onto the last few pages as we watch this town, this school and this girl do their very best to rise from the ashes.

I can't say enough good things about Hate List. If you want a book that will make you truly feel something, this is the book for you. Prepare...you'll need a box of tissues. I give this book a 5 out of 5, without question, and I highly recommend it to all fans of YA and upper YA, especially those who enjoy contemporary fiction and issue books.

32 comments:

  1. I just bought Bitter End so I will definitely move it up my TBR now! There are so many positive reviews on this book, and I feel the same way you do about contemporary-give them as much drama as possible! Haha. Any book that can make you feel so many different emotions is a winner! Great review!


    Alise @ Readers In Wonderland

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    1. I couldn't believe just how powerful this one was. I expected it to be good, but I just devoured it in a day.

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  2. Holy crap, this book sounds amazing! I'm grabbing a copy right now, in fact. Thank you so much for the awesome review, Melissa!

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    1. Toni, it really is! I think you'll love it, and I really do hope you'll read it. It's incredible.

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  3. A book that'll make me cry, YES! GIMME. That's all.

    Fantastic review, hon! <33

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    1. Thanks, Melanie! HATE LIST will do that and so much for you!

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  4. I adore contemporary reads too especially the ones that deal with gritty issues really well, I've had Hate List for ages now, but I've always been really scared to pick it up. But your 5 star review has me utterly convinced that I must read it right away. I have a few read-a-thons coming up in the next few weeks and I think it will be on the top of my reading list then! Lovely review Melissa!

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    1. I put this off forever, Jasprit, and I can't believe I did. Truly, this is one of the best books I've read in a long while, and most of the books I'm reading now just don't measure up.

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  5. I'm definitely with you on contemporary books that tackle real issues, especially when they're so topical. I eat them up! This one sounds like a really emotional read and a book I'll definitely be getting my hands on, thanks so much for bringing it to my attention! I haven't read anything by this author either so I'll definitely look her up. Great review!

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    1. Thanks so much, Sarah! I think you'll really like Jennifer's work. She writes some pretty epic stories.

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  6. A box of tissues, huh? This one DOES sound intriguing, but I usually have to prepare myself to face these heavy issue books. But I love that this girl changes and rises and becomes a stronger person after everything. Thanks for sharing your heartfelt review!

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    1. Lauren, it's a heavy book, but you feel empowered and revived by the end. It's incredible.

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  7. This book was soooo good! I always recommend this one to people :)

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    1. Kimmy, I'm SO glad to hear that! This book deserves to be on many more blogs!

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  8. Wow, Melissa! What a beautiful review! I'm a sucker for contemporary books too and I believe reading a lot of them had made me a lot more compassionate and better thinker. I'm happy to see that this one is that kind of book that would bring you such an impact and provoke you to think. I have heard of this book before but never really checked it out. I will definitely have to add this on my tbr after your very convincing review. Glad you enjoyed this Melissa! :)

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    1. Thank you, Eunice! This book is one I'm going to praise forever, I'm sure. It's absolutely phenomenal, and if you *do* read it, I'd love to see your thoughts on it! :)

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  9. OOH! A 5 out of 5?!? I've heard some great things about this book and I'm really interested to meet Val, especially since it sounds like she makes us work to get to know her.

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    1. She is definitely an amazing character...and this book is totally an all-time favourite of mine now!

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  10. Yeah, I need to buy this author's books asap! First Jenni from Alluring Reads, now you.
    I love that the author tackled such a hard issue. I can't imagine the thoughts going through Val's head. I don't know what I would do if I were in her place.
    I also love how you described the secondary characters. Too often, secondary characters are disregarded in YA books, so it's always wonderful to hear when they play big roles!
    Fantastic review, Melissa. I'm off to buy a copy of this right away! :)

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    1. Oh, Nick, I hope you do! I'd love to compare notes on it! It's a fantastic book. I really can't say enough good things about it.

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  11. Oooo yes I remember you telling me about this one Melissa! I haven't read anything by Jennifer Brown, but clearly I need to do that. Would you recommend this one over Bitter End? You know I love a good character-driven story and this definitely seems to be one of those, and I desperately want to know what Nick's role in this book truly is. CAN'T WAIT! Absolutely stunning review:)

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    1. Yes! I loved Bitter End, but this was definitely even better. I'd say start with this one because it's just fantastic :)

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  12. This sounds great. I don't read much in the way of issue books, but this sounds like a good place to start.

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    1. It is the perfect place to start...and it's such a fast-paced, emotional read :)

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  13. Wow.. this reminds me so much of Jodi Picout's 19 minutes. It's so heartbreaking to see what the extreme consequences of bullying may be. I think this is the first time I've heard the term "issue books" but I totally get why you love them so much! I've only recently developed a liking for contemporary fiction and I'm REALLY loving all these novels that tackle serious issues. I'm so thrilled you loved this! I'm definitely going to check this out (I CAN'T BELIEVE I'VE NEVER HEARD OF THIS BEFORE!!!)

    P.S Thank you so much for your comment on my blog!<3

    PPS.YOUR BLOG IS SOOOOOO PRETTYYYYYYYYYY<3

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    1. Shirley, you're adorable, and thank you, thank you for the sweet, sweet comments! I've never read 19 Minutes, but I love Jodi, so I'll have to look into that one, too. I really hope you read this, lady! It's fantastic! :)

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  14. Oh I might just have to read this! I love the books that make me emotional, even though I do have to go through a whole box of tissues.

    Followed back via bloglovin!!

    xoxo

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    1. It's worth every bit of emotion, Ellie! I promise! :) And thank you, sweets!

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  15. I keep meaning to read a book by this author but somehow never do. But 5 Stars from you? I have to check it out for sure, now! Thanks for giving me that additional push, Melissa! :D

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  16. Wow! I've had this book sitting on the back of my bookshelf for a couple years, and you're making me regret not having read it yet. It sounds like an incredible, emotional story. Glad to hear that the secondary characters are phenomenal - as soon as I finish reading CROWN OF MIDNIGHT, I'll start reading HATE LIST.

    Fantastic review!

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  17. I'm not a huge fan of contemporaries so I haven't read many issue books, but I really do plan on reading both Hate List and Thirteen Reasons Why at some point. I've heard that they're among the best of teen issue books and I agree with you that well-done ones have the potential to really affect their readers, which is awesome. I am so intrigued now by this book, especially your mention of how keeping Nick out of the narrative until the end seems to serve some greater purpose. I guess I'll have to read this to find out. Wonderful review!

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