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!



Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown | Book Review

Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown


Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown

Publisher/Year: Little Brown May 2013
Genre: Contemporary YA, Realistic Fiction
Series: No
Other Books From Author: Hate List, Perfect Escape, Bitter End
Amazon| Goodreads | Twitter |

I received this from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way swayed my opinion. Pinky swear!



The summer is about to come to an end and Ashleigh finds herself with the realization that her boyfriend, Kaleb, will be leaving soon for college. Concerned that he will forget her and full of insecurities about their future, she laments to her friends who suggest she take him a picture that will make SURE he doesn’t forget her. Drunk and armed with her phone, she takes a naked picture of herself and sends it to him. Months later Ashleigh and Kaleb have a very nasty breakup and Kaleb gets revenge by sending the naked picture out. Soon everybody in the school and beyond has seen it and everyone from the media to the police are now involved and she’s being ostracized at school. Ordered to court ordered community service, Ashleigh meets Mack, the only person in the program who will really talk to her, and starts a friendship with the one person she knows of that didn’t look at the photo when he received it and learns Mack’s story of why he is in community service.

Here’s the thing — I think what Thousand Words tackled and how it was portrayed was phenomenal. I think it’s an important book for teens in this age because sexting is a HUGE issue along with other abuses of technology. It’s a story that needs to be talked about because it sheds light in an honest and accessible way on this issue and also could help teens who SEE these things happen speak up and not further victimize the victim. However, I just had very “in the middle” feelings about it outside of that.

The story was told in a way where we knew WHAT happened up front and then we got alternating chapters of how the whole thing unfolded plus the present day. It was interesting to read the present day and the foundation for where she is now side by side. The whole mess was hard to read and it was really sad to see how she was ostracized at school and even among friends who knew the truth. There was a lot of victim blaming in this one and it was so hard to read about though it felt sadly realistic.

The even stronger point, I thought, in the whole story was how it affected her and her parents — their relationship and the effect on her parents’ life! There was also a lot to think about in terms of consequences for Ashleigh and many other people in this story and I appreciated that added dimension to the story because I didn’t think about some of the consequences as the story began. It made the story feel very complete to me as I battled with what was unfair and fair in this situation when it came to the people impacted by this act (Ashleigh, Kaleb, the bystanders, how her parents were impacted).

I think what is so important about the plot of this book is how realistic it is. It was completely plausible. I mean, the main character is a little drunk at a party and her girlfriends encourage her to make her boyfriend wish he was there with her so she sends her BOYFRIEND a naked pic of herself. After they go through a nasty break up months later, he sets the picture free and suddenly she is caught up in a major scandal and everyone is calling her a whore and slut and circulating nasty rumors. I can imagine many girls out there have done something that they thought was innocent in nature because it was just to their boyfriend and luckily, for some of them, nothing ever gets out but others aren’t so lucky. Sexting aside, in this era with all the technology, there are so many situations that could happen like this when your every move seems to be documented and mistakes are hard to erase.

While I thought the overall story was good, I just had a hard time connecting with Ashleigh. Sure I felt bad for her but I really didn’t feel like I got much from her and she seemed very one dimensional in some ways. I wanted a little more depth with her emotions. I understood her embarrassment but I wanted to get past the surface and really FEEL her emotions and I didn’t. I also thought a lot of the other characters were very bland and rudimentary so that was kind of disappointing because I’m definitely one who needs to FEEL something strongly towards a character (doesn’t even have to be a LIKE of them). The story just felt really impersonal to me though I thought it was good story.

I thought Jennifer Brown did a really great job of taking a timely issue and delicately breathing it to life with a scenario that really isn’t all that unrealistic today. If you enjoy “issue-y” novels that aren’t preachy this is a good one for sure as it looked at things in a multi-dimensional way and was realistic. As much as I think this story was done really well and is IMPORTANT, I just didn’t find what I was looking for to connect to it and make it more memorable for me. A lot of the characters, even Ashleigh for me, just felt at a distance to me where I could KNOW what I was supposed to feel towards them but I never actually felt much of anything except for feeling bad for all the Ashleigh’s of the world whose mistakes unfortunately get thrust out in the open. As impactful as this novel could have been on me, it just wasn’t.


Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown-  teen issue book


Let’s Talk: Have you read Thousand Words? Heard of it? If you’ve read it, what did you think? I’m curious if you think Kaleb’s punishment was fair? Have you read any of Jennifer Brown’s other novels? Have you read any other novels/heard of the one that tackles sexting?

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