If you’ve even got your toe in the book waters, you’ve heard about The Hate U Give, and for good reason.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives two lives: one as a “Big Mav’s daughter who works in the store” in a poor black neighborhood, the other as a cool girl at a fancy suburban prep school. When she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend Khalil at the hands of a white police officer, her worlds collide.
When Khalil’s death hits the headlines, reactions are mixed. At home in Garden Heights, Khalil’s death spark protests against police brutality and the streets become riot grounds. Elsewhere, he’s called a thug and accused of drug dealing and gangbanging. At school, Starr’s best friend even suggests he had it coming.
With her world shattering around her, Starr knows anything she says could destroy her community and put her in danger. But as the only witness in an investigation the police don’t seem committed to, can she afford to remain quiet?
Let’s get into it…
[Before I start, know that I’m a white blogger and while you may appreciate my view, you should also go check out what others have to say.]
Like I said, there’s a reason The Hate U Give has so much buzz about it. It’s incredibly timely, shedding light on the Black Lives Matter movement, and it’s quite touching. Starr’s struggle to find her voice and make a difference in a system that is rigged against her is one that illustrates the issues of race and privilege that are often in the news these days.
Debut author Angie Thomas has treated the difficult subject matter with incredible respect. Her writing is engaging at all times, with a mix of humour and gravitas. The pacing of the novel is fantastic. The narrative truly grabs you right from the get go and holds you tight up until the final words – beyond even, as it’s definitely a book that’ll stick with you.
Starr is a character that I couldn’t help but fall in love with. Like any teenager, she deals with keeping up with trends and trying to fit in. But those challenges are even weightier given her dual worlds and the pressure she faces as the sole witness of the shooting. Yet, she faces this pressure, along with ignorance (both willful and well-meaning) and her own guilt, and proves herself to be a force to be reckoned with. Her anger is inspiring, as is her willingness to trust people with her full identity even after some prove unworthy. It is my sincerest hope that she finds herself on lists of strong female characters and inspires young readers to stand for justice.
Thomas also includes a memorable supporting cast. Starr’s parents Mav and Lisa were a refreshing portrayal of parents. They’re both complex characters who are not only present, but active in their daughter’s life. Their relationship with each other is also realistic. They’re shown being both argumentative and loving, providing a welcome comparison to the romance between Chris and Starr. The relationships among siblings are equally heartwarming. Starr’s half-brother Seven in particular struck me as a character worthy of praise. Like Starr, he also lives two lives. The first, as Starr’s inquisitive and college-bound brother. The second, as a brother and protector of Kenya, Lyric and his mother.
Chris and Starr’s relationship stands out from the others I’ve mentioned because Chris is white and considerably well-off in comparison to the residents of Garden Heights. These differences result in conflict, because Starr is incredibly aware of them and Chris can’t immediately understand what she faces. Even so, their relationship is one that stands out among the YA couples I’ve read because of the effort that they put in to making their relationship work. I’ve got to give Angie Thomas credit for making me root for them.
There’s so much to like about The Hate U Give. It is a book that deserves discussion for so many reasons. It deserves game changer status for its portrayal of black characters and for its ability to discuss race issues in a thoughtful manner. If there was ever a book to demonstrate that YA can be smart, gut-wrenching, heartwarming, empowering, hopeful, and realistic all at once, this is it folks.
Final verdict: The Hate U Give is without a doubt the best book I’ve read so far this year, and I think it’ll have a hard time losing that position. Go pick it up. It deserves to be read far and wide.