Alternating between the time of the actual shooting in May and in September when Valerie goes back to school (the present), this book is about a school shooting, but mostly about a teenage girl and her struggle to understand herself. Valerie is just like any other outcast. She dresses in dark colors, wears heavy eyeliner, likes the opposite of what other students enjoy. However, she is also just like any other teenage high school student as well. She is madly in love with a guy who seems to share the same interests with her and get what she is going through. She likes to go to parties, hang out with friends, go to movies. The only problem Valerie has is, the guy she is, was in love with murdered around 6 of her classmates and permanently scarred dozens more. What’s worse, most blame her for the shooting, saying she played a crucial role in the horrible event, feeding her guilt about the whole situation.
This book makes you think about who you were at age 16, who you hated, who hated you, if you were made fun of, how it made you feel. Pretty much all the insecurities you experienced at that age are dredged up. This book made me understand how serious and out of control bullying can be and that sometimes, it’s not just the bullies that are wrong. Valerie, relentlessly picked on suffers from intense anger issues as a result of her being bullied. Coming up with a hate list, as a way to “deal with” her anger, she writes down anyone or anything in the book that ticks her off. Sadly, her self absorbing and selfish personality fails to understand the effect her anger has on her boyfriend, Nick, who takes the bully victim thing to a whole other level. It outlines Valerie’s hatred for herself after the shooting, her guilt and pain, and the realization that she has to be able to accept and forgive herself before others are willing to do so. Although everything ended up being sunshine and rainbows and she was accepted back into the fold just in time for graduation, the book was very good overall. Even though things may have not worked out so perfectly in the end for someone like Valerie if she really existed, this book would really connect with someone who has been bullied or has been a bully as a teen.