Jennifer Brown’s Character Debut Party

HATE LIST by Jennifer BrownSelected for the Autumn 2009 Kids’ Indie Next List, HATE LIST is a heartbreaking, powerful, and intense debut told from the perspective of a school shooter’s surviving girlfriend.

Bearing the new mark of truly important work, HATE LIST was recently “eliminated” from an Ohio classroom discussion following parental pressure to disallow books that drop the f-bomb from school lessons.

As the author Jennifer Brown points out in her recent post on the subject:

How believable would it be if Nick Levil, in the midst of shooting students, yelled, “Where the heck is she?!” Or worse, “Where the fiddlesticks is she?” Not believable at all. Here you have a guy who’s so angry he’s killing people. He’s going to drop some f-bombs. It just is what it is.

Censorship aside, I’m glad to report a sighting of my Little, Brown sister’s debut at Talking Leaves Books on Elmwood in Buffalo last week. Local friends, definitely check it out. Here’s a bit more info:


Five months ago, Valerie Leftman’s boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saves the life of a classmate, but is implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things they hated. The list her boyfriend used to pick his targets.

Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.

Valerie’s 2009 Debut Party

It seems almost a contradiction to throw a party for such an intense, emotional story, but as we know, life goes on after a tragedy, even when we wish it wouldn’t; even when we don’t understand how it’s possible. This post is by no means an attempt to make light of the serious nature of main character Val’s story, but is instead here to tell you about the book, invite you to read it, and encourage you to talk about it with your friends and family. Val’s story is an important one, a painfully real one, one that will be read and discussed and remembered. I hope that you’ll join me in congratulating Jennifer Brown on her incredible debut, and celebrate this powerful new voice on the YA scene.

The Guest List

I know the one person Val would most like to have at her party would be impossible to get there, because he’s gone, but we’ll try not to dwell on that too much.

Dr. Hieler, of course, is a given. So is Bea, Val’s art teacher, and Frankie, her little brother. Her parents, of course.

Probably Val’d be okay with it if I invited Jessica and Megan, and maybe even Ginny Baker, but honestly, Val’s not really into big crowds anymore, so we’ll keep it to just those three.

That said, you know, I’d love to invite Melinda Sordino from Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK.I think Val would relate to Melinda just fine.

I actually think about Melinda often. SPEAK is another great read, people. Check it out if you haven’t already.

The Party

Very small. In fact, not too partyish at all. More like a private, special gathering of special people. Too big of a crowd would draw attention, and we definitely don’t want to give the press a reason to start hanging around again. Not to mention, we don’t want to invite any public drama… especially when it comes to Val’s parents. In fact, no drama at all would be great (Val’s had enough drama for a lifetime, honestly).

We’ll be hanging out at home, in the back yard. You know, picnic tables, a small stereo providing some tunes in the background. Frankie might kick up a game of volleyball or something, and he’s just the one who’d get Val to kick off her shoes and join in.

Val’s still trying to get her appetite back, so the food’s going to be simple and not overwhelming. Maybe just some sandwiches, because that was Nick’s favorite, and sandwiches always bring back good memories for Val. She wants to keep everything low-key. I’m going with her favorite colors — black and pink (depending on the day), but we’re definitely not going to overdo it. A few balloons, a table cloth, black and pink paper plates and plastic silverware. And for the guests? Everyone gets a sketch book to take home.

The Guest of Honor: Val

Val is wearing an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt. Canvas tennis shoes. Nothing special, but she may put on a little lipstick, so that’s something! And her theme song? If Everyone Cared by Nickelback.

Jennifer’s Advice for Valerie on Her Big Debut

Just try to relax and enjoy the progress you’ve made. And know that what you’re seeing is what’s really there.

I’m really happy for Jennifer on her debut, and I also want to send a special shout out to her wonderful editor, T.S., who’s celebrating his own editorial debut with HATE LIST. Congrats to both of you!

HATE LIST is available in book stores now, and also online through Indiebound and other Web retailers.

Jennifer Brown is the author of HATE LIST, a YA novel published in September 2009. As a two-time winner of The Erma Bombeck Global Humor award and weekly columnist for The Kansas City Star, as well as Saturday Featured Blogger for, Jennifer spends a lot of time dressing up her dog for laughs and thinking of new ways to works words such as “Puh-lease” and “Ch-yeah!” into sentences. Jennifer grew up in the Kansas City, Missouri area, where she still lives with her husband, three kids, and whole herd of uncooperative pets. Visit Jennifer online.

3 thoughts on “Jennifer Brown’s Character Debut Party

  1. Hi 🙂
    Thank you for the great post.
    I hadn’t heard of THE HATE LIST before now.
    I have put it on my Get&Read list.
    Thank you for sharing Sarah,
    All the best,

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