Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

“Hate List” by Jennifer Brown

As I read it – got consumed by it, really (and in the midst of some hardcore revisions of my own, which is saying a lot!) – the writer me kept thinking, what an incredibly difficult book this had to have been to create. How do you give any depth to such a crucial character as the school shooter Nick Levil, without making it sound like what he did is even remotely justifiable?

Well, Jennifer Brown managed it. She created a story of so much pain that at times as I read, I felt that prickly itchy heat around my eyes, the choking almost-tears. At the same time, she made Nick real. The intense, sullen, angry, sensitive Shakespeare-loving kid. By the end of the book, every character, every bully, every jerk, every shallow Barbie-type is seen for what they are, for what we all are: people. Messy, good, not-so-good, cruel, selfish, thoughtful, trying.

Every character, except one.  Angela Dash, the news reporter. And here comes one teeny little problem I had with the book. Just one, really! 

Okay, maybe it’s just personal to me, because I come from this background. But what is it about the bad reporter stereotype? OK, I admit, journalists are harried, and they are on deadline, like, all the time, and mostly because of that, they get things wrong sometimes, maybe even often. But they have their own pride too. People don’t become newspaper reporters for money, and not for glory, either. Sure, we’ve all heard of the horror stories – the unscrupulous journalists taking gifts, or fabricating quotes. But most of them simply believe in their mission. To dig under the surface. And then bring a story to light. That’s all. As I followed the protagonist Valerie Leftman’s confrontations with the newspaper reporter in “Hate List”, the former daily reporter in me remembered how it was. Now racing someplace, now having to interrupt the person you’re interviewing, because that’s it, you’ve got the story, and now you must move on, and you can’t wait to write it all down! Now listening hard on the phone to someone, trying to get underneath what they were trying to tell you, and to see, in Jennifer Brown’s words, what’s really there. Journalists and artists really aren’t very different in that way.

But that’s not such a big gripe. Many of the greatest authors are guilty of this. Think J.K. Rowling with her odious yet oddly delightful Rita Skeeter character! 🙂

Overall, I am not surprised this book has made such waves, and I am sure Jennifer Brown must be growing bored with all these bloggers gushing over “Hate List,” and calling it a must-read, which totally deserves it!

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January 8, 2010 - Posted by | Book Impressions

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