Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another Teens' Top Ten Candidate

Another book from this year’s Teens’ Top Ten ballot is Hate List, by Jennifer Brown. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read this book, because of the subject matter—I’m more of a fantasy/science fiction/mystery fan (read “escapism”), and Hate List is definitely real life at its most traumatic. But I have to say that I found this an involving book, I felt great empathy for the authentic characters, and I liked the “before and after” story structure a lot.

Valerie is miserable at home and a misfit at her school. Her parents are constantly at odds, and she is the victim of relentless bullying by members of a popular clique. Then she meets Nick, and finds an ally as well as a boyfriend. The two of them have what Valerie thinks of as an inside joke—a “hate list” to which they constantly add the names of people who pick on them—teachers, other students—but also “people who say ‘sorry’ after everything. Fast-food commercials. All blonde chicks.”

Valerie puts all their talk of death and revenge down to a shared sick sense of humor and considers the hate list an outlet for their mutual frustration—until the day Nick shows up at school with a gun, and shoots six students and a teacher, accidentally wounds Valerie, and then turns the gun on himself. Now Valerie has to deal with the aftermath—her physical pain, the guilt she feels for not preventing the tragedy, how much she misses Nick (and having to wonder if she even knew Nick), and the attitudes of all those who find it hard to believe she wasn’t in on the whole thing. Brown deals sensitively with a volatile story, helping the reader see both the innocence and culpability of everyone involved. A worthy choice for the Teens’ Top Ten list.

To see all the Teens' Top Ten candidates, check the young adult section of any Burbank library, or go here: to our library catalog for complete records (including descriptions and availability).

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