Earlier on in the month, I reviewed the absolutely incredible Hate List by Jennifer Brown. Hate List is one of those books that will stay with me for a long time, a book about a girl trying to come to terms with the school shooting that her boyfriend Nick carried out. Val is dealing with her role in creating this 'Hate List' from which he targeted victims as well as the death of the person she knew and loved. Really wonderful book.
Jennifer Brown is the author of both Hate List and Bitter End. Please do visit www.jenniferbrownya.com to find out more about her and her books!
I'm absolutely thrilled and honoured that Jennifer Brown is on my blog today discussing Nick's death and Val's bereavement! Thank you so much Jennifer, and welcome!
All too often we look at death and loss as a “scenario.” We see it on the news, but it’s not happening to us. We go to our grandfather’s funeral, but he was old. We hear about acquaintances who’ve lost someone too soon, and it’s horrible and makes us cold, but it’s their bad luck. A fluke, really. We’ll be spared.
In Hate List, Valerie and Nick “scenario’d” death constantly. They talked about suicide and homicide with the same lightness that they talked about going to the movies or grabbing a burger. Sometimes they even glamorized it, made it seem exciting and beautiful and romantic.
But Valerie learned on that horrible day at school that she was the only one who’d been seeing death as just a scenario. To Nick, death was the only way, and in the end their “scenario” was not just a scenario at all, but was real, and was all wrong. Death was ugly and horrifying and terrible.
In an instant, Valerie’s new scenario would be living…and trying to do it without Nick.
But how do you do that? How do you go on walking through the world when the person you loved most is gone? How do you untangle the knot of what-ifs and I-should-haves and maybes and coulds and open your eyes each morning and blink in this empty space and have it be your new normal?
Valerie’s love for Nick changed on the day he died. To be expected when she learned he’d kept such a huge secret from her, but really to be expected even if he hadn’t. Love is an ever-evolving emotion, shaped by both people in the relationship. When one is gone, of course the love can stay…but of course it’s also going to change. You have to learn to accept this new version of your love with this person—the version where you’re the only one living, the only one loving, and you have to be okay with that.
Valerie did just that. She learned to accept what Nick had done. She learned to accept that she couldn’t go back and change her part in what happened. She couldn’t make him come back or make any of the others come back. She learned that she could still love him, but also open herself up to love other people, to move on. His death didn’t have to equal her emotional death, and in some ways Valerie’s most important lesson was that untying that knot of what-ifs and living was possible, and even preferable.
It was important to me to give Valerie hope in the midst of this horrible tragedy. To see her realign her life. To make her re-evaluate her goals and desires. To not let Nick’s death, and the others’ deaths, slip by in vain.
She loved Nick far too much to just crumple after he was gone. Because if what they say is true…that the best way to honor someone you love who has died is to celebrate the life you still have and live it to the fullest…then Valerie had a lot of living to do, because she had so much love for Nick.