Valerie and her boyfriend, Nick, compiled a "hate list" of people who bullied them and they often spoke about how much better off they'd be if those people weren't around. Valerie thought they were just joking. Nick didn't. Nick took it all very seriously. In fact, one morning shortly after entering the school commons, he began shooting at people. A shocked Valerie did what she could to stop him, even getting herself shot, before Nick turned the gun on himself.
This school shooting novel is unique because it focuses on the aftermath of the incident. It's also unique in that has a character in Valerie that makes people conflicted. The other students mostly still hate her, because they think she was in on the plan. But a few realize that she actually stopped him and saved lives. A few even think that she was a hero.
Her parents are also conflicted about Valerie. You assume that good parents will stand behind you no matter what. You assume that when everyone else has deserted you - your parents will still be there. But Valerie's parents are confused, hurt, and mad. They think she caused this tragedy and they refuse to listen to her explanations. However, she doesn't talk much in the aftermath either, so she isn't helping herself at first.
I was glued to the page until I finished the book. I really loved it. The characters were smartly drawn, as frustrating as they were at times. I got impatient with Valerie, and I was disappointed by her mom, but I was infuriated by her dad. But again, it's a credit to the writing that I got so passionate about the characters.
Another great characteristic of the writing is how the story is simultaneously told in two timelines until they weave seamlessly into one. The first is the aftermath and how Valerie is managing. The other is flashbacks of the story that builds up to the shooting. It sounds like it would be confusing, but it makes perfect sense and works brilliantly. I'm not sure it would have worked at all, if it had been told in one straight storyline. It worked so well, because Jennifer Brown is a wonderful writer!
Overall, it's a moving, emotional, excruciatingly truthful book. You won't forget it.
Visit her website here. She has another book out now and another on the horizon. She's definitely a great new author to watch! Check out the gripping trailer below: