Starred review from September 14, 2009
When Val and her boyfriend Nick write the names of the people who torment or annoy them in a notebook dubbed the “Hate List,” she has no idea that Nick will use it as a checklist the day he brings a gun to school, killing several people, including himself, and wounding many more. Brown's riveting debut initially cuts between the day of the shooting in May and the following September when school begins again, then focuses on the aftermath of the shooting and the rest of Val's senior year; newspaper clips are interspersed throughout. Val's guilt is explored in realistic scenes with a therapist; she helped write the list (“ started as a joke. A way to vent frustration”) but also stopped the shooting by taking a bullet for popular student Jessica, now Val's staunchest defender. Val's complicated relationship with her family, Jessica and the surviving victims, as well as how she comes to terms with Nick's betrayal, are piercingly real, and the shooting scenes wrenching. Her successes are hard-won and her setbacks, such as her father's inability to forgive her, painfully true to life. Ages 15–up.