"You must become so free that your very existence is an act of rebellion." -Albert Camus
Brown's "Hate List" immediately drew my attention with it's premise: the concept of a school shooting basing its victims upon a "hate list" started by the shooter and his girlfriend. I knew it was going to be a grim story, but I hadn't braced myself for the beauty it would unveil between its pages.
The reader follows the protagonist, Valerie, as she journey's from what she was before the shooting into a new skin - who she is after. Valerie and Nick, the shooter, had been dating for three years before Nick let loose his inner demons on the school, killing five students and one teacher. In the aftermath, Valerie is forced to deal with the blame that all of the city is laying on her. She is placed in the psych ward, under careful scrutiny from the police and then returns to the very same school her boyfriend wreaked havoc upon.
Brown did this with careful plotting. I felt that Valerie's acceptance back into the school (and her shunning as well) was spot on. My only critique's are the pacing and the late unveiling. At first, the pacing goes as follows: newspaper article, present day (end chapter); newspaper article, past scene (end chapter). If Brown had stuck to that mathematical equation of chaptering, I would have been content. Instead, somewhere in the middle of the book, it becomes a giant flash back and then we're thrown into the present again for the entirety of the book. For me, it felt a bit skewed and I felt like the careful methods she had been using before was just thrown out the window.
My second critique is the fact that quite a bit of the unveiling of characters and plot isn't revealed until close to the end. For example, the graveyard scene with Duce and the hospital scene with Ginny explain a helluva lot of the story that would have been beneficial to learn early. If Brown had kept to the present/past chapter method she was using before, this could have been exceptionally executed. I was a little sad to see this because it was on the verge of doing so much better. It makes the story a bit dry until the end.
Overall, I very much enjoyed "Hate List" and the ending had me in tears. Brown introduces some eccentric characters like Hieler and Bea to balance out the terrible home life that ensues for Valerie, as well as the hate and isolation she experiences from within herself. I was exceptionally glad to see Valerie realize that by creating the hate list with Nick in the first place, she was one of the biggest bullies of all - but this was barely glossed over. I do wish that they had dived deeper into her own part in the entire thing.
I recommend this book. To anyone and everyone.