Hate List Summary and Study Guide

Jennifer Brown

Hate List

  • 69-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 44 chapter summaries and 5 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a college professor with an MFA in Creative Writing
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Hate List Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 69-page guide for “Hate List” by Jennifer Brown includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 44 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Many Forms of Hate and The Dangers of Bullying.

Plot Summary

Jennifer Brown’s debut novel Hate List tackles the subject of a mass shooting at the fictional Garvin High School. The shooting leaves multiple students and a beloved teacher dead and culminates in the suicide of the shooter, troubled outsider Nick Levil. Nick’s final victim is his girlfriend, Valerie Leftman, an unintended target who survives the shooting. In one final attempt to stop the shooting, Valerie calls out to Nick, taking a shot meant for her tormentor, popularity queen Jessica Campbell. As Nick corners Jessica, Valerie intervenes, causing Nick to shoot Valerie in the leg. Valerie manages to secure Jessica’s safety and Nick kills himself.

The novel begins on the day Valerie returns to Garvin High, roughly six months after the school shooting. Throughout the novel, Valerie explains the origin of the hate list, a list she invents to record bad things that happen to her, like bullying or fighting between her parents. She shares the list with Nick Levil. Immediately, the two bond over their shared unhappiness, and the list. The novel depicts how the two form a friendship that evolves into a star-crossed romance. Valerie shares flashbacks to establish the bullying the two endure. In addition, both teenagers bond over their unstable home life.

Hate List uses a first-person, limited narration, following Valerie’s life from her sophomore year through her senior year at Garvin High School. As the bullying intensifies for Valerie during sophomore year, she turns to Nick, another outsider, for support. Both are from unhappy homes, and both are bullied relentlessly. Valerie and Nick form an unhealthy attachment, one driven by an “us against them” mentality. Although Valerie finds solace in Nick, she begins self-identifying as a loser. As the bullying escalates, so does the anger within Valerie and Nick. As their anger grows, the entries in the hate list become more violent and arbitrary. Accordingly, Nick’s behavior becomes both more secretive and violent during the pair’s junior year.

Valerie becomes nationally known as the creator of the hate list after the mass shooting, during which Nick Levil opens fire in The Commons, a busy student union area, leaving multiple students named in the book and several innocent bystanders dead or wounded. As such, not only does Valerie lose Nick that day, most people assume she and Nick collaborated to murder their classmates. Much of the community believes she dispatched her boyfriend to eliminate those on her hate list, bullies that Valerie had, at one time or another, casually wished “dead” in her hate list.

Valerie’s flashbacks to the days and years before the shooting illustrate Nick’s character. Her romantic and positive memories of Nick offset the monstrous depiction of Nick as a cold-blooded murderer: Nick as an avid reader of Shakespeare and the thoughtful boyfriend with a rose, there for her when her parents fight. Readers glimpse the dual nature of Valerie’s inner turmoil: she misses Nick, yet hates him for what he did. Other flashbacks examine Nick’s changing behavior, which is disturbing in retrospect. Valerie’s final flashbacks of Nick illustrate the emotional duress he suffered from the bullying.

Hate List shows a suburban family and town after an unimaginable act of violence. The book uses the school shooting as a way to query how safe schools really are. Since the shooting is a result of bullying, the novel invites readers to explore the pivotal role bullying plays in school violence. Hate List also explores the incredible resiliency found when love replaces hate. In addition, the novel depicts a different look at recovery. The platitudes grief counselors and school administrators usually offer may not be enough. Moreover, phrases such as “It is better to be alive than dead” may not be true for the victims changed irrevocably after the shooting. Ultimately, Hate List serves as a dedication to the victims of the shooting and an effort by Valerie to overcome the hate in her community with kindness and understanding.

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