Hate List: Bullying, Mental Health, and School Shootings | Book Review

★★★★/★★★★★ Hate List by Jennifer Brown

We drove on in silence, Dad shaking his head in disgust every few minutes. I stared at him, wondering how it was we got to this place. How the same man who held his infant daughter and kissed her tiny face could one day be so determined to shut her out of his life, out of his heart. How, even when she reached out to him in distress – Please, Dad, come get me, come save me – all he could do was accuse her. How that same daughter could look at him and feel nothing but contempt and blame and resentment, because that’s all that radiated off of him for so many years and it had become contagious.

Some people say Valerie is a hero because she stopped Nick from killing more people at their high school,  others think Valerie should have been locked up, after all, she knew of the list, she created the list, the list of the people that Nick wanted to kill. Now it is many months later, and she has been cleared from any crime, and has finally decided to return to school, and see the damage the event caused to the students, those that were her friends, and those that made her life miserable. The news keep saying that after the mass shooting, everything changed in the school, in the town, that there is unity between all, but are the reporters telling the truth? Is the principal telling the truth? Are the students? And Valerie? 

Throughout my reading of this novel, I kept shifting between two feelings, a coldness, and a sadness, often times, these feelings mingled together. I knew it would happen, it was only a manner of time before the history of these events caught up to me once more, I was just expecting to see it back on the news. I live in the United States of America, this country has the highest record of school shootings in the world, whether it be because of our soft gun laws or our very lacking system to help mental illness, this reality of people dying in schools, and parks, and our own home, happens constantly. We might think that there is safety for a while, after all, there has been a month or so since the last one, but we all know it will happen again, and that we have the power to stop it and that still, we do nothing. This book is mostly about the aftermath of the event, and how certain individuals (mostly Valerie), deal with it. But it also shows glimpses of what could have been done to prevent Nick from doing what he did. The blame oftentimes falls on Valerie, for both things, but no one truly knows anything, they just assume, assuming does not always lead to truth.

What is fascinating that this book got right is how, oftentimes, people that affected others in such damaging ways, always find another outlet for the blame, or they own up to it, very few here did. The Hate List is a list of people Valerie and Nick hated, people that bullied them, or left them for other things without so much as a goodbye, or things they disliked. Yes, there were things in the list that were not people’s names, how the cops never looked into that to show some of Valerie’s innocence still astounds me. After the shooting, the cops only wanted to catch anyone else that might have had a connection to the shooting, but they never looked into how Nick felt, or Valerie, or how the kids mistreated them, or how barely anything happens to bullies. Now, I do not want to seem like I am defending Nick, I am not, he lost all rights to me caring about him after what he did, but past Nick earned a pass, much like the one Valerie gave him, because I saw where he came from, not completely, but I saw why he hated so much, why he felt so isolated. And I see why it was not all his fault, and his and Valerie’s cross to bear. 

Three things to talk about: Bullying, Mental health, and School Shootings

Bullying:People hate. That’s our reality. People hate and are hated and carry grudges and want punishments … I don’t know if it’s possible to take hate away from people. Not even people like us, who’ve seen firsthand what hate can do. We’re all hurting. We’re all going to be hurting for a long time. And we, probably more than anyone else out there, will be searching for a new reality every day. A better one … But in order to change reality you have to be willing to listen and to learn. And to hear. To actually hear.

I don’t really hate people ( I try at least), and never people I know, no matter how much I dislike them. I don’t know why, it just never occurred to me that I should mark them for life as my mortal enemies (except that one person, screw you!). But there are people I hate, people that are universally hated, Fidel Castro, Osama bin Laden, Hitler. But who wouldn’t? And it makes me feel better about hating them when others do so as well. But now I wonder if Nick felt that what he was doing was right because others hated his classmates too, because Valerie hated them, and they hated them back. What limit can a person reach of hatred, disdain, and pain  from someone that will lead them to try to kill them?

We hate, and in our hatred we bring others down, we destroy them. Why? Many reasons, each belongs to the individual, and to themselves only. I don’t have the answers, and I don’t think the book does either, the best we can do is try not to be completely horrible to each other. 

Mental Health:You may not have pulled the trigger, but you helped cause the tragedy.” I don’t agree with this statement, it is solely putting the blame on Valerie, and none on the bullies, or the unbalance of chemicals in someone’s brain, or the ease someone can get a gun to shoot up people. How was she supposed to know? Not everyone will be able to tell if someone is a danger to themselves or others, mental health is an allusive bastard. In some cases it is obvious someone needs help, they show certain traits, but other times, they are very good at hiding everything. I can tell, from experience, that depressed people smile the most, because they know what is like to feel worthless and under-appreciated, and don’t want others to feel like them. They put a strong front, and in some cases, no one even suspects what is going through their heads. Hence giving a single individual most of the blame is preposterous, particularly someone that was suffering similar amounts of bullying.  

School Shootings(shootings in general): John Oliver does a brilliant job explaining what I believe, very well, in these three clips about gun regulation, and he makes it funny. 

That is all I can say of this book and its themes, for now at least. It is a very wonderful book that will most likely make you tear up a bit, it is not the best written, nor the best developed, but it is an important book. 

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