Five months ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he 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.
Since I lived in the Denver Metro area of Colorado and was personally affected by the school shooting at Columbine, this book hit very close to home for me, especially since I was a sophomore in high school when it happened.
Valerie was a victim and an enemy is this book that spoke volumes about the seriousness of the words that we speak and how our actions, no matter how insignificant, affect other people. Nick was such a likable villain in this book and it made it a very emotional read. I felt every emotion under the rainbow while reading this and at the end, I still wasn’t sure what word I could use to describe what I felt about this book. I feel like it was so realistic in the bullying and how Valerie tossed out how much she hated people and wanted them to pay. She said on numerous occasions that she wanted certain people dead and that was what they used the Hate List notebook for. She didn’t understand how powerful words like “hate” and “dead” are and how final they can be. The trauma that she suffered, as well as the pain, and healing were also very real. What was not real to me was the friendships that formed after the shooting. It was easy to believe that the girl Valerie saved during the shooting would try to reach out to her, but to me it seemed just too far-fetched. I think that this part of the story was supposed to reflect how powerful forgiveness is, because Valerie really didn’t start to heal until her classmates showed her forgiveness, but it was too unbelievable to me.
It is hard to say if I liked this story or not, but I do think that it is an important one to read. YA books touch on subjects like this for a reason. The same reason that 13 Reasons Why was such an important book to read. Teens (adults too) need to see how life changing words and actions can be. Suicide, bullying, and depression are very real issues and if reading a book about what causes these issues or what heals them can help, then everyone needs to be reading them.