Friday, July 5, 2013

Hate List - Jennifer Brown

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 405
Source: Purchased
Genre:  Young Adult, Realistic Fiction

April, 20, 1999, October 2, 2006, December 14, 2012 are just a few of the dates that have one thing in common they were all school shootings. Columbine was the first major shooting I remember.  The one thing  that was brought out and mentioned was the issue of bullying. The Nickel Mines shooting showed us that peace loving people like the Amish could be just as big a target.  Lest we forget this last December 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary, we see that even the youngest child is not safe.

Jennifer Brown has created a book that makes us look at possible reasons why these things happen.  I am in no way making excuses for these killers.  However, as I read her book I began to look at my life and do some comparing.  Funny the things we think about and things we learn. 

Valerie Leftman is the main character in this story.  It is the story of being left behind after a tragic event has occurred.  It is the story of trying to make sense of the world both before and after so that you can move forward with your life.  Valerie’s boyfriend Nick did the unthinkable.  He went into a school and killed several kids.  Valerie saved a life, getting shot in the process.  Nick then killed himself.  The problem is that everyone believes that Valerie was behind this plot and that Nick just carried it out.  Why would they think that?  They had a hate list.  I immediately thought back to the first “slam book” I confiscated.  The girl was anxious to get it back and I didn’t know why until I opened it up.  It was filled with the names of people she didn’t like and why.  I turned it over to the principal.  We took all of these kinds of things seriously as we were fresh out of the Columbine shooting the year before.  It turned out the girl’s parents were going through a divorce, her brother was leaving for college and her best friend had just been killed in an accident.  She was different, which seems funny now that I think back.  I worked in an arts school so to me everyone was unique.  She was venting her frustration out through that slam book.  When does a journal, slam book become something more?  I wondered this because I often give kids a journal when I know they are going through a lot of garbage and tell them they can feel free to  write whatever they need to get it out of their system.  When does it actually go bad?

I kept seeing the people who had called Valerie names and made fun of her and her friends, getting by with things. It was so unfair.  She felt like she had no one on her side including her parents. That is why I take all acts of bullying seriously in my classroom and school.  Having parents that don’t believe in you for whatever reason only adds to that stress.

Okay, so here is where I tell you something personal.  I understood how Valerie felt when her parents didn’t believe her innocence.  In their eyes she was guilty by association.  When in eighth grade I had a friend who was doing drugs.  Sitting in art class one day I was defending my right to be her friend.  I passed a note to the student I was talking with and it was confiscated.  I heard nothing from anyone.  I just assumed the teacher had thrown the note away.  My parents had been called to the school where they went through all of my things in my “open-faced” (as in no door) locker looking for drugs.  Then they did the same thing with my room.  They wanted to know where I kept the drugs. There were none.  I was grounded and had to go to the school counselor twice a week for the rest of the school year because of my association with "those" kids. My cousins thought this was so funny..  It was years later one of my cousins told my mom that as she lay in a hospital after an overdose in school she started laughing thinking about her and the other cousins doing drugs and never being suspected while I had been accused of something I didn’t do.  I felt totally betrayed and it took a long time, as in years to repair the damage done to our relationship.  This is one of the themes that runs throughout this book. The theme of broken relationships.  This should be a must read for every kid and teacher from middle grade up.  I know I will have parents say, “But, I don’t want my kids being exposed to that kind of stuff.”  Wake up parents, they are exposed to that and so much more every day.  Let’s teach kids what are actually out there and how to deal with it.

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