Saturday, 20 October 2012
Here's the blurb of the book:
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Val was as shocked as everyone else - but, despite her own serious injury, she's implicated in the crime because of the list. The list she and Nick made of people they hated. The list Nick used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, her former friend, and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place, and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
What drew me to this book, other than the intriguing title, was the fact that it focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, not the shooting itself or the time leading up to it. Sure, I expected to see the shooting and be told a fair bit about why Nick did it, or the reasons people think he did it (since he killed himself, too, and couldn't explain to anyone), but I figured the vast majority of the book would focus on Valerie's return to school. That was the part I was interested in. Unfortunately, it's the smallest segment of the book. I don't have the numbers to back this up, but I think the shooting and the immediate aftermath, as opposed to the "five months later" part, are at least half the novel. It's not what I expected.
When reading this book, it occurred to me that it falls somewhere between We Need to Talk About Kevin and the movie Mean Girls (although that comparison may be down to the Hate List itself, which struck me as being like the Burn Book). It's an odd place for it to sit, not sure if it wants to be light teen-lit or something with more depth. Honestly, it felt a little shallow to me. Maybe that's just because I was expecting a different novel to the one I got, I wanted to see the range of emotions and reactions to Valerie coming back to school, but people either ignored her or were a bit cold. Given that half the reason Nick opened fire on the students is that they ignored him, (the other half is that they picked on him a bit), this didn't seem the "navigating [of] rocky relationships" that was advertised.
I also think the pacing was off. Some parts were rushed through, others dragged out for too long, some thrown in haphazardly for no apparent reason. I couldn't put my finger on exactly what the problem was, but the balance wasn't right. Maybe I'm just being hard on it because it wasn't the book I expected it to be, wasn't the book I wanted to read. It's not a terrible book, but I doubt I'll be recommending it to anyone.