The Hate List by Jennifer Brown is about the aftermath of a school shooting. Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend Nick was the shooter, she had no idea that he was going to shoot up the school but she was implicated in the crime because she made a hate list of everything her and Nick both hated. Nick had taken his victims off of the list. Valerie was wounded trying to stop him and then Nick took his own life. After the summer Valerie had to come back for her senior year and face the guilt and move on with her life. The most relatable character in the novel is Valerie. The lump in my throat was too big. It seemed surreal that I was about to be walking the same hallways with these kids who I knew so well, but who seemed like complete strangers. ”(Brown 36). Although Valerie never shot anyone she was judged right along with Nick as a killer. They never stopped to think that Nick and Valerie were also victims; not of the shooting but having been bullied. “In my head I went back to the only safe place I knew: Nick. ”(Brown 88). Valerie feels so alone without her friends, family, and her boyfriend.
Everyone has an emotion when they see her the only one that is lacking is compassion. From any story there is a lesson to be learned from it. One lesson that can be learned from this story is someone can struggle with not knowing whether or not they were a hero or a villain. “The school couldn’t decide if I was a hero or villian, and I guess I couldn’t blame them. “(Brown 6). Although Valerie wishes the whole thing never happened, she wishes that no one would see her as a hero. She believes things would be easier if no one cared about her. Was I the bad guy who set into motion the plan to mow down half my school, or the hero who sacrificed herself to end the killing? Some days I felt like both. Some days I felt like neither. ” (Brown 7). Inner struggles are hard to deal with especially when she feels like she is all alone and nobody understands. She knows nobody is on her side but that still does not make it any easier. Lessons are hard to learn when you are a teenager but it usually has a lasting effect. The climax of the story is at Valerie’s graduation from high school. ‘Our class,’ Jessica began, ‘will forever be defined by a date on the calendar. May second, 2008. ’” (Brown 396). While they would be forever defined by the date Valerie will be defined by her involvement. The graduation was about moving forward with their lives and leaving all the pain behind. “In a way, Nick had been right: We all got to be winners sometimes. But what he didn’t understand was that we all had to be losers, too. ” (Brown 398). Valerie finds peace in the ceremony. Letting it all go was what she needed.
Life is what it is, but what someone does with their life is what counts. Valerie did not start the events that took place, but she did not really stop them either. The shooting was a traumatic event that even Valerie could not have prevented. Being a survivor and a victim is one in the same but completely different at the same time. Valerie will never forget but she can heal, finally.