Lauren Fidler's Reviews > Hate List

Hate List by Jennifer Brown
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so, i did actually write a review of this one. and now...it's gone, slipped into the ether, a lost moment.

pity.

Hate List is a new take on an old tale (and by "old" i mean like my high school history teacher not like ovid). brown explores the issues of bullying and teen violence (as sensationalized by recent school shootings), but, rather than focus on either 1. the victims or 2. the shooter, brown aligns her story with valerie, the shooter's girlfriend who was shot herself when trying to save a fellow classmate.

there's a lot of grey area here. like Monster and After we see the too-adult struggle of a teen protag whose maturity and integrity is linked to their willingness to accept personal responsibility for their poor decisions. of the three novels, i think the question of guilt is most clear here. val feels guilty because she was too blinded by angsty teen love to see who nick (her school-shooting boyfriend) really was. maybe it's denial, maybe it's delusion. whatever. she didn't know what he was planning, but she has unresolved issues regarding his actions.

who wouldn't?

love letters:

1. a new spin: this thing could have been a trite examination of the bullying phenomenon but instead it's thought-provoking and complicated. while val blames herself for her role in creating the titular "hate list", can we really blame her for channeling her emotions towards her tormentors into something visually concrete? she learns to do it in a more healthy way (via painting and art), but how can we fault her for a coping mechanism glorified in a lindsay lohan movie?
2. pacing: i couldn't put it down. once i got into the story, i wanted to see it through to the end.
3. characters that make you mad: once upon a time, i went to college and wrote in a personal reflection journal all about my deep-loathing of melville's "bartleby the scrivener"...i said bartleby's passivity made me so angry that i wanted to throw the book (or, you know, DID throw the book) and my aged jesuit professor pointed out that if melville could create a character worthy of such venom, isn't that something to consider and maybe even applaud? back then, i thought the guy was nuts. now, in my old age, i see what he was talking about. i HATED val's parents. but my hatred made me want to see the resolution of their plotlines. for me, that's a positive.

my hate list:
1. nick: i get it. he's the romeo to her juliet. but he was thinking literally and she wasn't. i don't know. i never understood what she saw in him. yes, he was smart, yes, he liked shakespeare. but he was also violent and flirted with other girls and wasn't always there. of course, there's so much about teen love i don't get, but he just never seemed worthy. human, yes. worthy, never.
2. guilt: i get it. val feels guilty, and that guilt makes her selfish and introverted. but people keep pointing it out. or forgetting that this girl took a bullet for someone on her list. for me, it was a bit heavy-handed.
3. val's leg: okay, so, i'm all for symbolism. i am. but the whole "leg is a symbol for guilt/isolation/resentment" thang bugged me. too obvious. also, i was about to create a drinking game where everytime val mentioned that her leg hurt i would, you know, take a drink. but then i realized i'd be drinking alone while reading YA fiction while everyone else in my house slept. and, well, you know, that was enough for me to kill the idea dead.
4. val's parents: why do so many YA novels feel the need to go the whole "my parents just don't get me/i hate my mom (dad, brother, sister, second cousin twice removed)!" route??? it feels so overdone. roald dahl created adult antagonists so that his children could outshine them with their creativity, ingenuity, and wit. nowadays, when teenager protags whine about how much their parents suck (and val's parents suck a lot), well, it just feels obnoxious and entitled.
5. closure like a lifetime movie: the end was sad (i actually almost cried, which i feel odd about confessing) but there was something a bit...cheesy... or hokey about it. i won't go into the details, but let's say it felt more ceremonial than sincere and leave it like that.
6. nickelback epigraph: when your protag is a self-proclaimed goth who is nicknamed "sister death" by her peers, a nickelback epigraph just really doesn't cut it. you know?

4 stars. overall, i really liked this debut work; i'm curious to see what brown will tackle next.
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Reading Progress

10/10/2011 "a book that begins with a nickelback epigraph...hhmmm.."

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