Valerie Leftman used her notebook as a way to vent her feelings about all the people and things that she hated: popular kids at school, mean teachers, people who say “sorry” after everything, fast food commercials. She and her boyfriend, Nick, filled page after page with the things they despised and named it the Hate List. While the List was a source of humor and comfort to Valerie, Nick had much more sinister plans for the people whose names filled the lines. Armed with a gun and his list of targets, Nick opened fire on their high school cafeteria, killing several students and a teacher, accidentally shooting Valerie in the leg as she tried to stop him, and finally turning the gun on himself.
Now, five months after the shooting, Valerie must go back to her high school for her senior year saddled with the guilt of having helped write the Hate List and having to face the students whose lives were forever changed by the event. As much as she would like to, Valerie cannot fade into the background of high school students for long. Her involvement with Nick and her part in the shooting draw attention from all sides. Some believe Valerie is a hero, others think she is just another victim, and still others believe that she is just as guilty as Nick. Valerie herself cannot decide where she fits in. She still loves Nick but hates thinking about him. She wants to apologize but she’s afraid to bring attention to herself.
This story is not so much about the shooting that takes place, but more about the people it affected and how they deal with the fear and uncertainty of facing the future after the tragedy. It deals with a heavy subject and is not light reading, but Valerie is a character who inspires us see the best in ourselves and in others. If you enjoyed Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser or Shooter by Walter Dean Myers, you might enjoy this thought-provoking novel.
Originally posted on May 22, 2012 on http://www.indiancreekschool.org.