Released: October 5, 2010
Publisher: Little Brown
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 432 pages
Author Site: Jennifer Brown
Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he 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, former friends 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.
This was Valerie's story but I could so easily see my younger self and lots of other folks in her and Nick's places. Highschool is hard and I dont mean just academic wise. As Jennifer said lots of folks will believe this story is about a school shooting but it's not. The shooting is the end result of ignorance. Kinda like a pimple that has grown to its extreme and must burst to let out all its poisons.
Nick is portrayed as a villain because he was the one who shot everybody but when it really boils down to it he was just as much if not more so the biggest victim of them all. Dont think I am condoning what he did, but you cant ignore what drove him to it. He didnt just say ok today I think I am gonna shoot up some people.
Valerie is left to pick up the pieces not just of her life but of those around her. Even her own parents have awkward feelings towards her, though she was not the shooter but in fact a hero for stopping the shooting as quickly as it began and blocking one of the intended victims. Valerie's therapist keeps telling her to "See whats really there." I pondered on that statement for a long while during my reading and it made me reflect back to some of my own highschool experiences and the people I "thought" I hated. It's hard when your in a situation to be able to step outside of it and analyze it sometimes but this story made me think about that.
My thoughts are I believe Valerie to be a good person and feel the hate list was just her way of coping with her feelings, by writing them down. I dont think she would have ever done anything further with the list, whereas Nick felt he had to take action...had to remove what he "thought" were his problems.
Jennifer has done a remarkable job of expressing feelings and views from both sides of the equation here and I highly recommend that everybody not just young adults should read this book! If you've ever been bullied, pushed around, felt hatrid, or if you've even been a bully yourself, READ THIS BOOK.
Jennifer's second young adult book, Bitter End, about is available now.