The list was my idea.

I didn’t mean for anyone to die.

Will you ever forgive me?

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Val was as shocked as everyone else—despite her own serious injury, she’s implicated in the crime because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick 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, her 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.

–back cover of Hate List by Jennifer Brown.

I feel like this was one of the best books about a shooting that I’ve read. Everyone hears stories about shootings, but who really talks about the flipside? The shooter, the shooter’s friends, and the anger and hate that can follow them around?

I liked that the main character wasn’t your average shooting victim. She was an outcast. She was strong. She was angry. She wanted to believe that the shooter, her boyfriend, wasn’t as guilty as everyone said. I liked how Jessica, a former bully, changed when Valerie saved her life. I liked that Nick, the shooter, wasn’t angry and antisocial all the time. He was bullied, yes, but he had a girlfriend and friends and no one had any idea what he was going to do.

I wish that they would’ve gone a bit more into character development with characters besides Valerie. She seems to be the only one I truly got to know, but overall, the characters were likeable, or unlikeable, exactly where they were supposed to be.

This book was realistic. Brown doesn’t skip over hard topics. She showed exactly how it’d go down, from police investigations to therapy, to the hate Val experienced at school. It was interesting. It was also a fast read.

Although the first of four parts was a bit hard for me to get into, the rest of the book was hard to put down. I love Brown’s writing style. She goes back and forth between present and past. She has strong world building skills and her dialogue is realistic. She words things beautifully, and in a way that’s easy to relate to.

My least favorite part of the book would have to be the beginning. Briefly, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get through this book. I didn’t understand why everyone thought it was amazing. It seemed like the book should only be 100 pages instead of 400 pages, but as soon as you hit part two, any of those feelings are gone. It’s a riveting, realistic story, that keeps you captivated until the end, which was my favorite part, but hey, no spoilers. You’ll have to find out yourself.

I’d give this book four out of five stars.