hate list

I just finished Jennifer Brown’s debut novel – The Hate list. This is a book that is going to remain with me for a long time to come. Brown conveys a powerful message within the pages of this book – it’s a must read for teachers, students and parents alike. Bullying is a widespread problem. Jennifer Brown shows that bullying can have tragic, life-changing consequences.

I was talking to some students about the book and effects of bullying. They can’t imagine ever doing a shooting like Nick did but sadly, these students were able to relate to the feelings of loneliness, abuse and resentment. Back when I was in high school, school violence was not something that we really had to worry about. I am not saying bullying didn’t exist but the attitude at the time by many was that it was just a rite of passage and you needed to suck it up. Columbine changed it all.

Valerie and Nick were teased, bullied every day. They were angry at the people that were doing the bullying. How would you like to be called Sister Death among other names? Then came the hate list, a list that was born out of the bullying. Val started it but Nick acted on it. One day last year Nick opened fire on their classmates in the Commons. Val couldn’t believe what was happenning. She tried to stop him. She even saved another person from getting shot taking the bullet herself. Not in a million years did Val ever think that the list would get any further than between them but now everybody knows who was on the list.

Fast foward five months, school is about to start again and Val is returning to start her senior year. To say this is difficult is putting it mildly. Since the shooting Val has grappled with both physical and emotional pain. Actually the whole community is hurting, trying to come to grips with the loss of sons, daughters, husbands and friends. So much was lost that day. Valerie doesn’t have a very big fan basis at this moment. You can’t really blame people for being angry with her either. Where does Val fit on innocent or guilty continuum? She is not completely innocent but at the same time not guilty either. It wasn’t her hand on the trigger but in a way she did load the gun. She is angry with herself. Until she can forgive herself, she will never be able to move forward. Some people may think Valerie is crazy for going back to school, but I think she is incredibly brave.

 Does Valerie deserve a second chance? I think so. Does she get the second chance? Well, you are going to have to read the book yourself to find out that answer. I am warning you now, you will shed a tear……

Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me…….. That statement is not entirely true…..names do hurt. A little piece of advice: treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.

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