I honestly can’t think of a better book for people of the here and now to read. Although specifically targeted at the YA audience, as the main character, Starr, is sixteen years old, this book breaches the typical lines drawn for book genres and covers a spectrum of them.
If you haven’t heard about The Hate U Give, where have you been? Occupying the number one spot on the best-seller list for weeks now, it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon. An honest, heart-wrenching portrayal, The Hate U Give was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, a response to the on-going racial police brutality going on in the United States.
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.
This review does not contain spoilers.
The Hate U Give could easily be classed as one of the most important books of a generation. Its focus on one of the most significant topics, ‘Black Lives Matter’ encourages the reader to realise that although this particular story is a work of fiction, it happens far too frequently. Starr and Khalil’s story may not have actually happened, but the action is real. The Black Lives Matter movement is real. Because frequent unwarranted shootings of African-Americans by the police happens.
The Hate U Give follows Starr, who witnesses the shooting of old friend Khalil and the aftermath of this moment. Starr may be fictional. but she is also real. Her family, her community is all too real. The creation of this world by the author is so incredibly life-like, you can easily, easily see it all play out in your mind. The language, the interactions, the affectations are the sort of authentic you know has come from experience and not research. Whilst it’s great for others to include POC’s in their writing, the best and truest representation will always come from real experience.
Starr is an incredible MC, her feeling of being lost between two worlds is heart-breaking to read, but an eye-opener for those of us who wouldn’t perhaps think of this as a problem to begin with. We get to see Starr, struggle and develop and learn throughout the story. As she realises she too makes initial judgments without knowing the whole story and how to deal with fixing that. So many of the characters go through so many changes and such growth.
The family foundation in the book was such a high-point of the whole narrative, how the family dynamic worked and how all the relationships intertwined, it was a real exploration of family. Starr’s relationship with her parents was especially heartwarming. I loved their interactions and how well they bounced off each other. It was an intricate look at their relationship and I, really really enjoyed this aspect.
The other dynamic that was so intriguing to read into, was the dual Starr personas we got, depending on which environment she was in; holding in aspects of her personality in her middle-class, majority white student-filled school. Not wanting to encourage them to stereotype her, Starr changes herself to fit in more but ends up not fitting in there. The same can be said when she returns to her neighbourhood and therefore finds herself not truly fitting in anywhere. It was so important for this narrative to be included, this is a narrative that isn’t explored, how a person changes themselves to avoid the racial prejudice already set aside for them.
This is showcased throughout the passive-aggressive covert racism of Starr’s ‘friend’ Hailey. The under-handed comments, the intentional actions towards Starr because of Starr’s stances on racist acts of the past. It really makes you think about the casual stereotypes of certain races that people throw out every day, without thinking of the consequence of their words.
Despite the serious nature of the book, author Angie Thomas uses her expertise to ensure it is not consistently so, interspersing the heartbreak and the strong emotion, with smart quips and surprising humour.
By Starr’s uncle being a police officer, we do get a broad range of perspective toward the shooting and the resulting events – it really encourages everyone to get thinking. That is definitely one of the main motives of this novel; to get you to think, to get you involved. To get the wider audience that may not have have been affected to really grip the deep-rooted prejudice that causes this to happen in the first place.
There is so much I could say about this book, but I don’t want to essentially spoil what makes this book so important, so incredible and so of the moment. You know that the author has put so much thought and effort into constructing this story.
I honestly encourage so many people to read this book. It truly is a book of the moment, perhaps even the book of a generation.
If you want to find out more about Black Lives Matter please go to this link here. And do as I have done after reading this book, and get educated.