Hate List might seem like your typical young adult, school shooting novel (although, considering the size of the genre, nothing could really be considered typical) but it is anything but. Val is just your angry, run of the mill, outsider teen. She hates the popular kids, mocks them with her friends, and takes solace in her relationship with her boyfriend Nick. That is until one day, she gets shot saving the life of the most popular girl in school. To some, she is a hero, credited with stopping a horrific act of violence, to others, she is just as guilty as the shooter, Nick. Before the shooting, Val and Nick created a list of things they wish would disappear, people, places, events, things, nothing was sacred, but Val never imagine Nick would actually commit the horrorific acts of violence that they discussed. And when the list comes to light, the whole town is at odds against whether or not Val is guilty.
This book is awesome. And also really sad. Obviously. The book is told from Val's perspective which means that you can't entirely trust the narration, but whatever I TRUST HER. She honestly had no idea what Nick was planning, and this becomes painfully clear over the course of her therapy sessions, her discussions with her family and her growing relationship with the popular girl she saved. It seems like it might be hard to feel bad for a person like Val but that's totally not true. Her suffering is just as, if not more valid, and her story is one that begs to be told.
What I really thought was great about this book was the way Jennifer Brown shows the reader the difference between feelings and actions. All of us have probably felt at one time or another like the world is ending or that we want certain people to disappear, Val certainly does. A lot of people associate kids like Val, loners and 'freaks' with kids who are actually capable of killing. Brown shows us that you can't trust appearances, and that the person you might think most capable of destruction, is actually the one who is the redeemer.