In her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, Anne Lamott says, “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

My hope is that this is what books become to you—as important as almost anything else on earth. This blog is about helping you find the miracle in these small, flat, rigid squares of paper while you are in middle school and beyond. Once you read alongside me, you are forever a member of my tribe of readers. No matter how you old you are, when you need to be reminded of the power of a good story, you will find me here, waiting to place one in your hands.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

HATE LIST by Jennifer Brown

copyright: 2009
primarily marketed for: young adults

I believe that if everyone read Hate List the world would be a better place.  I always say that the story is in the character, and this book is no exception.  This is the story of Valerie.  The book opens immediately after her boyfriend Nick brought a gun to school, shot multiple people (including Valerie), and ended things by turning the gun on himself. 

Jennifer Brown does a beautiful job of unfolding the details of the events of that day throughout the book via news articles.  It is gruesome and detailed, but because the reader gets the details in small doses, it is slightly less horrifying and easier to absorb. 

As the author unfolds the events of that day, Valerie begins her journey of coming to terms with those events, her journey of healing.  Many of the people around her, including herself and her parents, wonder if she is to blame because she is the one who started the Hate List that Nick referred to as he shot people.  Valerie has to deal with missing Nick, with coping with the fact that there was a side to Nick she did not see, with facing her peers as she returns to school, with figuring out who she is in her post-Nick world.  Luckily she has the help of a realistically supportive therapist and a new artistic outlet for her feelings. 

Despite myself, by the end of this book I had tears streaming down my face.  I know I was crying for Valerie, for the strength it took for her to do what she did at the end (you just have to read the book), but I also know I was crying out of a desire to retract every mean thing I have uttered back from the universe.  You simply cannot read Hate List and be the same person you were before you flipped that first page.  Jennifer Brown is on my list of new favorite authors!


  1. I just found your blog and my account has been on fire for the last few minutes! :) I teach 6th grade reading/language arts in Alabama. Would you be able to add an email subscription button for me? Google reader is overwhelming! :)


  2. You taught me something new! I added the e-mail subscription button per your request. I didn't realize it was an option. Thanks for finding me and nudging me to try something new! In case you are interested, I have another blog you might want to check out at:

  3. Christy-

    I just signed up for this blog! Thanks so much for adding the email button! :) I am headed over now to check out your other blog.