First I have to say thanks to Sourcebooks for sending me an advanced readers copy of this book. As a high school teacher books like this really hit home. To think about these types of things, that aren’t fantasy unfortunately. These type of things that cause heartache, and so many lives to be senselessly lost. And as a teacher, sometimes the heartache comes from knowing all the things that happened that may have led up to the shooter feeling that was all they had left to do. This story touches on that somewhat, but also touches on the issue of the people who do these things having a mental illness. I think it is a great way to look at all the different aspects that take place in this kind of a story.
The story is told through four different students’ viewpoints. At first this was a little difficult for me, but only when I was trying to remember between two of the girls and which boy was their brother. The two girls I’m talking about are Autumn and Sylv. Autumn is the sister of the shooter, Tyler. Sylv has a twin brother named Tomas. We get the story told from Autumn’s, Sylv’s, Tomas’, and also a girl named Claire’s viewpoints. As you would expect in a story like this, each of them has their own connection to the shooter, and each of them wonders if they could have been part of the cause, or if there was any way they could have known to stop it.
Autumn and Tyler lost their mother. Since then, their father turned abusive. And for the most part, Tyler would protect Autumn. But sometimes he didn’t. And it was the change in Tyler’s behavior that should have sent more of a red flag up for Autumn. Autumn and Sylv, well they are kind of together. Not in public necessarily, but they both do have feelings for the other. Tyler doesn’t like it, and even goes so far as to threaten Autumn, and while it’s never quite spelled out exactly what, he has done even worse to her. We begin the story with them going to the big assembly that the principal does at the start of every new semester.
Tomas has had an issue with Tyler recently, one that led to a fight. He also will do what he can to protect his sister, except he hasn’t gone as far from that as Tyler has. Tomas is a prankster, and when we first meet him, he is with his friend Fareed, in the principal’s office during the back to school assembly. A time when they know everyone will be out of the office, and they can look at some records they want to know about.
The fourth person, Claire, is actually who we start with. She is out practice running for track. Claire is an JROTC member it seems. She is running around the track with her best friend, a guy named Chris. We find out that Claire’s connection to Tyler has to do with dating him at one time.
All of the story is told bit by bit, as things unfold in the assembly, where Tyler has locked the doors and blocked all of the students from leaving. He doesn’t just shoot and run. He commands attention, he talks to the students, and shoots them, some for reasons in the past, others just to prove his points.
Tomas who is not in the assembly will have to do what he can to try to save those who were there and are in danger. Claire who is outside, will also hear the shots, and head to a local gas station to try to get help sent.
The story is terrifying, to read what he says as he holds them all hostage. The way that killing the students, teachers, etc., none of it seems to phase him as what it really is. Then, the students who die, and you hope beyond hope that they will make it out, that help will arrive in time to save them, it just really breaks your heart when they don’t make it. It makes you think about what would you do in that sort of situation. Would you put yourself in front of a friend or loved one in order to save them? Or would you try to help them hide with you, and hope that you could keep them, and yourself, safe that way?
Really a deep thought book, intense, really hits hard. I haven’t read one that has really struck me as much as Hate List by Jennifer Brown, until now.