Last May, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend opened fire in their school cafeteria, killing several students and a teacher before turning the gun on himself. Val was shot in the leg when she attempted to stop the shooting, inadvertently saving the life of a classmate. Considered a hero by some, she is still implicated in the murders. Nick Levil was aiming for people on a list that Valerie created – the Hate List, a lengthy record of all the people who bullied them or wronged them in some way. A few months after the shooting, Val is returing to school and facing some of the very same people she helped to endanger. Though cleared of any charges, many still blame her for the tragedy.
Many complicated issues are tackled in this novel, including some interesting themes of guilty and responsibility, and how groups of people deal with the aftermath of a shared trauma. Val’s parents are in many ways similar to parents in many other YA novels, but the author has gone to some taboo areas and allowed Val’s parents to admit that their feelings towards her have changed. (I honestly am not convinced that Val’s father loves her at all anymore.) The range and complexity of the other characters’ feelings towards Val is fascinating and, I think, realistic. These are not easy topics and they are not dealt with in a neat and tidy way. Excellent book!