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.
Pages: 432 pages (Paperback)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Released: October 5, 2010
Once upon a time, I did a project on bullying and the legal side behind it for my law class. Obviously, bullying is a horrible thing, but we never really hear about it until it's too late. Since that project, I've been fascinated by fictional books about bullying and seeing what the author does with that kind of story.
Jennifer Brown took a story about bullying, school shooting, and made it into something different. The story isn't about Nick, the one who was bullied and decided to shoot a bunch of people at school before turning the gun on himself. It's about Valerie, the shooters girlfriend who had no idea that this was going to happen and where everything went wrong.
Even though the shooting plays a huge role in the novel, I liked how it was also about Valerie trying to find herself too. She was the one who came up with the Hate List, the list that Nick and her spent time on writing about everything and everyone they hated. It was also the list that Nick used to target people. She struggles with the feeling of guilt over her part in the shooting and it doesn't help when your family and friends believe that it's partly her fault as well.
The story moves back and forth between what happened on that day and how Valerie moves on afterwards. It was nice watching her grow as a person and getting more in-tuned with herself. When it comes to her friends, Valerie is apprehensive about getting too close. She wants to be left alone, which is perfectly understandable. And even though her new friends are pushing her too move on, I kind of wish we saw some of her old friends doing the same thing. It does make sense that they wouldn't be as close anymore, but the selfish side of me wishes that there was some more scenes between them.
I was also interested in Nick and Valerie's relationship. I do believe that there was a strong love there, but you could also feel like Nick was pulling her down to his level of sadness. I liked how Valerie made a passing comment about how her friend moulds herself to fit in with others, because I felt like Valerie did the same thing when it came to Nick.
I enjoyed my time reading this. It made me tired, because I decided that the best time to read this would be before bed. This was a bad idea, since I slept really late, but it was worth it because this was a great little gem. Definitely check this one out!