Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Hate List | by: Jennifer Brown

Valerie must go back to school, and she's dreading it. At the end of last school year, her boyfriend Nick killed himself and other students. Survivors deal with painful injuries both inside and out. All of the victims were on the "hate list" which he wrote with Valerie beforehand. Now that everyone knows that Valerie contributed to the list, people blame her, but she had no idea what Nick's true intentions were. He was the one person she thought understood her, but in the end he flipped her world upside down and left. Between all of that and problems at home, Valerie has a lot on her plate, and she doesn't know how to establish a sense of normalcy. 

Obviously Hate List has a lot going for it. That premise is intense, and honestly, when I read about the general gist I immediately thought that it would be too much. Too dramatic... Or maybe just trying to hard to be too dramatic. I was required to read this for a class, and I wouldn't have picked it up otherwise.

While it didn't exactly resonate with me, Hate List wasn't nearly as melodramatic as I expected. I was intrigued and emotionally invested in a moderate way, and I can say that I generally liked it. John Green talked about how we romanticize the dead's previous struggles in The Fault in Our Stars, and Jennifer Brown talks about how we romantice the living's grieving processes. Grief is ugly. And some ugly souls are unaltered even after tragedy. Nothing can completely suck the ugliness out of us, whether we want to admit it or not. Valerie realizes this when she goes back to school: Not much changed since the shooting. But some people did.

Brown seems to form her characters to be real people with a mix of good and bad qualities rather than being walking epitomes, and while that's always ideal, I think it's especially crucial for such a 'real' story. She also does an exceptional job of describing emotions. While no one I have ever known has shot anybody, I have been disappointed. I have missed people and felt disappointed in the at the same time, like Valerie feels about Nick - even though this book has a really extreme premise it has relatable moments. I got a few tears in my eyes off and on.

I guess there's nothing really bad about Hate List, but... I don't know. I guess I just wish the plot was stronger. The most intense moments were usually the flahsbacks, and what happens in the present is interesting, but I just feel like there could have been more... together? The execution of the overall story wasn't bad, the writing wasn't bad, the charactes were honest, there were some emotional, relatable moments... Even though I can say I enjoyed it there's something that keeps me from saying I REALLY liked it, and I'm not 100% sure what it is. Maybe despite everything it's just not my type of book?

Hate List has a lot of positive points, I'll give it that. But I just didn't love it even though I struggle to put my finger on why.

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