Review – Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Hate List

Title:              Hate List

Author:    Jennifer Brown

Pages:     432

Series:    none, standalone

Publisher:       Little Brown Books

Publish Date:   October 5, 2010

Source:    library

Genre:  young adult, contemporary, realistic fiction

My Rating:      *****

Goodreads Summary:

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.

My ThoughtsThis story is very powerful and heart-breaking to read, but it’s real.  It’s hard to write a review because there are so many feelings and thoughts stirred up by reading something like this.  It is never okay to end another human being’s life.  A story like this you can see Valerie’s and even some of Nick’s point of view and realize how hopeless and hurt they felt by being bullied every day they went to school.  In Valerie’s case she didn’t even have a supportive family to come home to that could have made it better.  I guess I understood the Hate List they made up as a way of venting, but then Nick took it too far.   Bullying is a very serious issue and parents have to teach our society’s kids that it is wrong and needs to stop, but not in a violent way.


  • Valerie was probably the only character who showed any growth and learned from her mistakes, besides maybe one of the other survivors.  From the days after the shooting until a year later her story shows her growth as a person.  It took a lot of strength for her to walk back in that school and for what she does at the end of the book.  Besides Dr. Heiler, she doesn’t have anybody but herself in her life to count on so she had to face everyone alone.  She also knew she made a mistake with the Hate List, she just didn’t realize it would go that far.  She took responsibility for her part in it as far as the list went.  I think she was a little naïve when it came to Nick and how much bigger his anger was than hers.
  • I liked Dr. Heiler.  He didn’t try to judge Valerie.  Even when Valerie thought she might be evil and doubting herself, he just listened and was supportive and encouraging.   
  • For being Jennifer Brown’s debut novel, I think she did a very good job and I will be looking up her other books to add to my ever-growing TBR pile.


  • Valerie’s parents were awful.  It seemed like they were this before the shooting since they were already having problems.  Not much was mentioned about Valerie’s relationship beforehand, but I didn’t take it that her parents were a big part of her life. All her father cared about was himself.  Neither one of them ever tried to talk to her about Nick, the shooting, nor why she felt like she did to write the list in the first place.  I realize the evidence at first was piled up against her, but they automatically assumed her to be guilty.  I just don’t get parents like that.  I talk to my kids as much as I can.  Teenagers might not always be forth-coming, but parents at least have to make the effort.
  • I was a little bothered by the fact that not a single one of the kids that bullied Valerie and Nick ever apologized.  A few parents or kids implied Valerie was hero for stopping the shooting and saving Jessica’s life, but I thought that one or two might come forward and apologize for treating her that way.  Jessica kind of glossed over that.  She says Valerie saved her life and starts becoming her friend, but she never she’s sorry for calling her Sister of Death.  I realize that what Nick did was worse and Valerie shouldn’t have talked about killing people or making a Hate List, but didn’t any of those kids realize what they did was wrong too?  One girl expresses some guilt, but there still isn’t an apology there. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but it should have went both ways.

About the Author:

Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer’s weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.

Jennifer’s debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) 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. HATE LIST also won the Michigan Library Association’s Thumbs Up! Award, the Louisiana Teen Readers Choice award, the 2012 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award, was an honorable mention for the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback, received spots on the Texas Library Association’s Taysha’s high school reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association’s Missouri Gateway Awards list, and has been chosen to represent the state of Missouri in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Jennifer’s second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and is a 2012 Taysha’s high school reading list pick as well.

Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.