The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release: 28th February 2017
Genre: YA Contemporary
Source: @bookevin ‘s ARC (sent by HarperCollins USA International for review)
Rating: 5/5 stars
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.
The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen—people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.
Maybe this can be it.
Rarely do I ever come across books that are written to convey political and/or social issues of great significance and value at opportune moments. Books that are impactful and just need to exist. It is also just as rare to read books that may not be important but are just as eloquent, brutally honest and causes a reader an overwhelming boat of emotions. Books that are just so bloody good. Then comes along those rare creatures that takes both together to deliver a book that is both important and bloody good.
The Hate U Give is one of those books.
I can talk about how this book is inspired by the “Black Lives Matter” movements or how Thomas first wrote it after the Oscar Grant shooting, or even the subject of racial bias in the justice system, where shootings of unarmed black by the police officers are considered not a murder. But choosing to focus on the socio-political importance of this book would do the book an injustice. This book is not only harrowing in multiple ways but it is beautiful and powerful because it’s also about Starr building an identity around the historically constructed systemic racism and about families, of blood and found. Throughout the book, Thomas intertwined stories of survival, second-chances, and regret. It is filled to the brim with grief, anger, as well as humour (Harry Potter fans, brace yourself for a whole lot of HP references) and love.
“I wish people like them would stop thinking that people like me need saving.”
The Hate U Give is about sixteen-year-old Starr who lives in two different worlds: one in Garden Heights the community where the poor, mostly black, gang-ravaged is, and it’s also the place where she was born and still lives in with her family. It’s where her childhood friends are and it’s where her dad has his local grocery store. But Garden Heights is home to Starr and her family despite the dangers and tragedies that they’ve experienced. The other is the posh Williamson Prep, mostly white, suburban high school where Starr attends with her brothers, Seven and Sekani. There, Starr has a white boyfriend and her own group of friends but keeping both lives apart is starting to become exhausting.
After witnessing the shooting of her best friend, Khalil, by a police officer for doing absolutely nothing wrong, Starr struggles to deal with the aftermath of this tragedy. Her fear is evident throughout as she fought to try and bring Khalil’s death some justice against a system that is working against her. But her anger overwhelms her fear of speaking out when Khalil’s murderer escapes justice and starts using her voice as her weapon. From here, we see through Starr’s eyes how the media portrays the blacks, even if they are just kids, as guilty until proven innocent – and when you’re black with any history with drugs, gangs, or violence it is nearly impossible to appear innocent.
“Who said talking isn’t doing something? It’s more productive than silence. Remember what I told you about your voice?”“You said it’s my biggest weapon.”“And I mean that.”
Another thing to love would be Starr’s incredible nuclear family. I can’t remember the last time I read about a more generous, sympathetic, and supportive portrayal of a family. Her dad who had turned his life around for his family and community is incredible and incidentally his relationship with Starr’s mother is so cute. (Starr says they are her OTP*, they are mine too.) Her mom and grandma are just so full of sass as well that it’s no brainer that’s where all Starr’s sass came from. Starr’s other relationships with her best friends, boyfriend and community are all equally compelling amidst the fight for justice. No character in this book was left undefined.
Balancing well with the serious tone, are the little balls of humour throughout the book:
Momma reaches her fork onto my plate and breaks off a piece of pancake. “What is Tumblr anyway? Is it like Facebook?”
“No, and you’re forbidden to get one. No parents allowed. You guys already took over Facebook.”
“You haven’t responded to my friend request yet.”
“I need Candy Crush lives.”
“That’s why I’ll never respond.”
“I don’t need you to agree. Just try to understand how I feel. Please?”
There are a lot of people who would like to change the world: whether it’s the society, mentality, or environment. The quote above is when Starr said it to her white boyfriend. If more people understood the reason behind why black people are so upset when another unarmed black is killed, it would help bring about change. These cases are generally political to the public, but for so many of the blacks, they are personal. They need to become personal for all of us, not just to the blacks. We can change the world, little by little even if it’s how we see and perceive things. So, if you want to change the world, read this book.
**OTP: One True Pairing which means your favourite combination of characters in a fandom. **