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.
When Val and her boyfriend Nick write the names of the people who torment or annoy them in a notebook dubbed the “Hate List,” she has no idea that Nick will use it as a checklist the day he brings a gun to school, killing several people, including himself, and wounding many more. Brown's riveting debut initially cuts between the day of the shooting in May and the following September when school begins again, then focuses on the aftermath of the shooting and the rest of Val's senior year; newspaper clips are interspersed throughout. Val's guilt is explored in realistic scenes with a therapist; she helped write the list (“[it] started as a joke. A way to vent frustration”) but also stopped the shooting by taking a bullet for popular student Jessica, now Val's staunchest defender. Val's complicated relationship with her family, Jessica and the surviving victims, as well as how she comes to terms with Nick's betrayal, are piercingly real, and the shooting scenes wrenching. Her successes are hard-won and her setbacks, such as her father's inability to forgive her, painfully true to life. Ages 15–up. (Sept.)