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Book Club Kits: Hate List

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria.  Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create.  A list of people and things they hated.  The list her boyfriend 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.

Discussion Questions

  • What kind of person is Valerie? What words would you use to describe her? Was she a hero or a villain? How does Val answer that question?

  • If you were in Valerie’s place, would you have returned to the same school for your senior year? Why did she go back?

  • What kind of person was Nick? Why was Valerie so drawn to him? Was he a villain or a victim? What kept her from visiting his grave? Does she still love him after the shooting?

  • Did Nick gave any signs that he was planning the shooting. Why didn’t Val or any of his friends notice?

  • Why did Valerie start the Hate List? What did the people on her list do to earn their place on the list? Did they deserve to be on the list?

  • Do you think that Val ever intended to do anything with the list? Would the shooting have happened without the list?

  • Why do all of Val’s friends ostracize her? Were they right in doing so? If Val and Nick had been in your group of friends, how do you think you would have reacted to the situation?

  • Why does Jessica try so hard to befriend Valerie despite the fact that she was on the Hate List? Why was Jessica on Val’s list? Why is Val unwilling to accept Jessica’s friendship?

  • Why is Valerie is automatically named as a suspect in the investigation of the shooting. Why don’t her parents advocate for her? How would your parents react if you were in Valerie’s situation?

  • Describe Val’s relationship with her mom before the shooting. How does the shooting change her relationship with her mom? Does the tragedy bring them closer? Why or why not?

  • How does Val’s dad react to his daughter’s role in the shooting? Why can’t he forgive Val? Why is it easier for his girlfriend to be understanding of Val’s situation?

  • How does the shooting affect Val’s brother? When does Valerie finally understand her brother’s true feelings about her?

  • What did you think of Angela Dash’s coverage of the shooting and the aftermath?

  • Who invited Val to the barn party? Why does she agree to go? What happened at the party? Why does Val call her dad instead of her mother for a ride after the party?

  • What does Dr. Hieler mean when he tells Val to “…concentrate on being in the moment…don’t read into things. See what’s really there.”? (page 17)

  • When Valerie attends her first painting class, she describes the feeling as “miraculous”. How does painting help her emotional recovery?

  • What did you think of the memorials that Val and Jessica created for their fallen classmates? Why didn’t Val want Nick’s name included? Do you think he should have been included?

  • What effect do you think the shooting will have on the rest of Valerie’s life?

  • Author Jennifer Brown has said that Nickelback’s song “If Everyone Cared,” was stuck in her head as she wrote The Hate List. Have you heard it? How does it fit the novel?