The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Book club
My rating: 4.5/5
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
As the sole witness to her friend Khalil’s fatal shooting by a police officer, Starr is overwhelmed by the pressure of testifying before a grand jury and the responsibility of speaking out in Khalil’s memory. The incident also means that the carefully built-up boundary between Starr’s two worlds begins to crumble.For years, she has spent her weekdays at a private, majority-white school, where she’s grown accustomed to code-switching to be considered an “acceptable black girl. At home, for example, Starr is clowned for attending a “bougie” school and at school, she’s too embarrassed of her neighborhood to talk to her non-black friends about it. She lives with her father “Big Mav,” a former gang-member who wants to make their crime-ridden neighborhood a better place, and her mother Lisa, who wants to move away in order to keep her family safe.
Thomas’s debut novel offers an incisive and engrossing perspective of the life of a black teenage girl as Starr’s two worlds converge over quetions of police brutality, justice, and activism.
Thomas’s book derives its title from the rapper Tupac Shakur’s philosophy of THUG LIFE—which allegedly stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.” The acronym tattooed across Tupac’s abdomen could be read as an embrace of a dangerous lifestyle. But, as Khalil explains to Starr, just minutes before the cop pulls them over, it’s really an indictment of systemic inequality and hostility: “What society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out.”
With black culture pulsing through the language and style, The Hate U Give teaches without preaching. It tells a story that never sacrifices nuanced discourse for broad generalizations. This book is painfully reflective of real life, and the guise of fiction does nothing to distract us from the real events that happen just like this in our own country.
This was a very important and relevant story about racism and a good insight for me, a daughter of two Syrian immigrants who grew up in a predominantly-white neighborhood, into what it’s like to be black and live in America. There were two quotes in the book that completely snapped the entire Black Lives Matter movement into focus for me:
When Hailey showed empathy for the cop’s decision because he felt “unsafe”:
“Are you serious right now?” Hailey asks. “What’s wrong with saying his life matters too?”
“His life always matters more!” My voice is gruff, and my throat is tight. “That’s the problem!”
And when the media grabbed a hold of Khalil’s possible affiliation with a gang:
“I hate that I let myself fall into that mind-set of trying to rationalize his death. And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door. If you do, you shouldn’t be a cop.”
I truly feel this book has educated me, teaching me everything I didn’t know about racism, and opening my eyes to realities I never knew existed.
I loved the character of Starr and the journey she went through in this story. I loved how present her family was in the story. They relationships were well done and believable, and the dialogue between them was often times lighthearted and gave the book a much-needed dose of humor.
I personally had to dock half a star because I wasn’t the biggest fan of the super current, simplistic teen contemporary style of writing (and the amount of times she talked about Tumblr) but that’s just my personal writing preference. I don’t read young adult novels very often. The writing, at times, feels so bogged down by how much it “tells” instead of “shows.” I feel the numerous amount of pop culture references will be irrelevant in just a few years, distracting people from the true message of the book. And for a YA novel, over 400 pages was too lengthy.
Should these things matter, though, when the message is so important? I don’t know. It’s a great book, but is it a masterpiece? Is it “To Kill a Mockingbird” good?
I would still recommend this book to everyone and I’d love to see it taught in schools. The discussions that spurred during my book club were impacting and important, and I am very excited to see the movie adaptation. Watch out, world!
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong.The key is to never stop doing right.”