Hate List by Jennifer Brown | Book Review

Hate List by Jennifer Brown | Book ReviewHate List by Jennifer Brown
Published by Little Brown Books For Young Readers on 2009
Genres: Contemporary YA
Also by this author: Thousand Words
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought






Valerie and her boyfriend Nick are a bit of outcasts at their school and they’d been writing a hate list full of people and things they hated in order to vent about it. Until one day five months ago, when Nick used that hate list as a target list in a deadly school shooting in the cafeteria. While Valerie tried to stop him as the event unfolded, and even saved a girl’s life, she’s been blamed for being just as much a part of this as Nick because she helped write the list. As the school year begins, Valerie is forced to go back to school with the peers who think she is guilty and the memories of what happened all while she tries to reconcile her role in all of this, the strained relationships between friends/family and the complicated feelings she has towards Nick.


This is my second Jennifer Brown book, the first being Thousand Words, and I do declare that Jennifer Brown is one the best when it comes to tackling tough, relevant issues in YA especially after reading Hate List. They are incredibly realistic, feel genuine and not at ALL preachy. There’s always room to think with her books and I LOVE that about them. I thought Hate List was better for me personally between the two I’ve read so far and that mostly is because I really found a strong connection to Valerie and I found myself just absorbed wholly into this story as it was super powerful and incredibly evocative.

I read this book at a strange time though personally as this story mirrored a situation going on with my nephew and his girlfriend. He is going through an angry phase and his girl friend is a very, very angry girl and there was a list written similar to this. Luckily, this situation has been taken care of but it made the predicament in the book all the more real. You look at something like a “hate list” and you have to wonder — is this just kids being angry but harmless or is it something more? In this day you can’t really look the other way.

That’s the sort of situation Valerie, the MC, found herself in. She and her boyfriend were writing this hate list as a way to vent about the people that were mean to them/that they couldn’t stand but it took on a whole new meaning for her boyfriend. What she thought was relatively innocent ended up not being so much and she had to deal with that in the aftermath — deal with that she contributed to this. This is where Hate List really soared. Jennifer Brown made me FEEL so conflicted about Valerie’s role and also understand why Valerie herself feels so conflicted as to what her role is in all of this. Is she a hero? Is she just as much to blame as her boyfriend who did the shooting?

I just can’t get over how realistic this book felt — how Valerie felt about going back to school, how her peers treated her, how even though people were changed it went back to normal in ways, how she still had so much love for Nick even after what he did, how it impacted her family (also: her dad is douche), how she felt conflicted about her role, the guilt she had etc. Sometimes with “issue-y” books, which I do love, I have the problem where I don’t feel like the characters are real and genuine and the issue itself takes precedence of the story but Hate List by Jennifer Brown did NOT have that problem. I loved how round the characters felt — even Nick. I LOVED her psychologist. I just wanted to hug him.


This story isn’t about a school shooting but rather the aftermath of the event on the shooter’s girlfriend, Valerie, who unknowingly had a had in it. It balances the glimpses from that day and the past with the very present reality. It’s a GREAT book — very powerful, emotional (yeah I cried), makes you feel conflicted at times and is very thought provoking. If you like books that tackle tough, relevant issues — definitely pick this up! I loved the way the story was told and I was so immersed in Valerie’s unique story.


Hate List by Jennifer Brown

Let’s Talk: Have you read this one? Heard of it? What did you think if you’ve read it? Have you read any other Jennifer Brown novels? Have you read any books that tackle school shootings in any capacity? I think this was my first one!


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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. This is on my list! I just read your post-it review because I didn’t want to know too much about the book, but it definitely kept me intrigued. πŸ™‚

  2. I haven’t read this nor any of Jennifer Brown’s other books but you make this sound really good. I do like the sound of this, plus after reading all the great things you had to say (thought provoking, powerful, relevant, feely feels – all qualities I look for in hard hitting contemps), I might try and track down a copy. Maybe after my shelf has cleared just a tad… *runs off to read all the books*

  3. I read this book a while back and loved it! I think it’s the only Jennifer Brown book I’ve read so far, but I thought it was so so good, really moving, and like you say, an issue book where the issue didn’t overshadow the story or characters.

  4. This book is actually on my Secret Santa List and I plan to ask for it for Christmas if I don’t get it. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while. I read Thousand Words first too (my only Jennifer Brown book so far) and I thought it was really powerful. I also have Perfect Escape on its way to me. Jennifer Brown is extremely talented. I’m glad you liked this. And I’m glad the situation in your life got resolved. Great review!

  5. I’ve never read anything from Jennifer Brown, but this one has me intrigued! I’m usually not one for “issue” books, either, but this one sounds so unique. I literally don’t think I’ve ever heard of another book with this plot, which is saying something in today’s YA. I’ll have to check it out. Great review, Jamie! πŸ™‚

  6. This has been on my shelf for ages, and I’ve just never gotten around to it. I really need to.

  7. This sounds great! I’m a little hesitant to read Jennifer Brown again though – I really wasn’t the biggest fan of Thousand Words and found the characters kind of bland and underdeveloped πŸ™

  8. This one sounds so good. I haven’t heard of it, but I will definitely be checking it out. Sometimes I really love to sit down with a good “issue” book. They make you think and I love that.

  9. This is my favorite J Brown book! I really really loved it. The whole idea of losing someone that you aren’t allowed to grieve for was so powerful! Another school shooting book I liked was Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.

  10. I really liked your review on this. I am not a huge fan of “issue” books because they remind me of past incidences that I have long forgotten (after realizing and acknowledging the lesson they taught). But this seems like a great read!

  11. I’ve wanted to read this one for a while now but I was always hesitant. Its nice to know it’s not as intimidating and that you liked it!

    Great review!

  12. aw, I loved this book so much! I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it, too. I remember crying a lot a lot, lol.

  13. I’ve wanted to read Thousand Words for a while now, and Hate List too. I had no idea they were written by the same author! I guess that explains it πŸ˜› I think my favorite contemporaries are the “issue” books, since they always tug at my heartstrings. If I read a contemporary, I want to cry, or be inspired, or both. That’s pretty much the only reason I read the genre!

  14. I loved this book so much. I was very absorbed too. It’s one of those that you think about long after you finish it.

  15. I’ve only read one of Jennifer Brown’s books (Perfect Escape), but I really enjoyed it. This author certainly has a way with words, especially when she describes such real, contemporary issues in her books! I’m glad to hear that you liked Hate List — it’s one of her books that I’d definitely want to check out.

  16. I just read this one and spent most of the book underwhelmed. I kept thinking that I would rate it a 3 out of 5. Then I finished it and just wow. It was a solid 5 stars for me. I loved that it made me think. I didn’t really know if she was responsible or not and that was so genuine…so real life. Part of me says yes and part of me says no. I tend to think that I don’t like issues books but I actually really do…especially well written ones like Hate List that make me think so deeply. It was excellent!


  1. […] from Hate List by Jennifer Brown: MAN, I just can’t imagine even going through the trauma of a school shooting but for the […]