Published: April 6th, 2017
Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
Diversity: All the main characters are people of colour, majority black. There is also one of Starr’s friends Maya, who is biracial Asian American. No lgbtq+ characters.
Warnings: police brutality, gang violence, racial slurs.
I adore this book. With all of me.
I’d heard all the hype for weeks before the UK release date, and everyone who spoke this book gave focus to how powerful it is, how important the story is, but until I read it, I didn’t quite understand how real this story felt for me.
Angie Thomas’ writing is fantastic, engaging and utterly gut-wrenching in the best ways. In her words, she reflects this world that we’re all apart of so well. If you cannot understand being the victim of these crimes, you can see yourself in the people around who spoke out on social media or went to protest rallies. Some part of this story, you will have been a part of it, one way or another.
The Hate U Give is told from the point of view of Starr Carter, the witness of her best friend, Kalil’s murder at the hands of a police officer. You follow her as she griefs and struggles to link what she has experienced to the world that she knows. You follow her through her fears and her moments of bravery and the anger she feels. She’s an incredible character to follow – strong is such a real way that you cannot imagine being able to cope as she has. Even at her most reckless, her reactions are appropriate and are understandable and you want for everything to work out okay for her sake.
Through Starr, the reader gets a really hands on and emotive experience to how these kinds of crimes affect your day to day life, how they turn your world upside down, mess with who you can trust and how you feel safe.
It’s a criticism of a system that allows the demonisation of black children. It’s a reminder how we as a society react to these murders whether that is to find an excuse as to why, to feel burning rage and the need to destroy, or completely ignore the source of the problem. Angie Thomas very impressively covers all people that would have an opinion on what has happened – from those who don’t really understand and just want a day off school (Hailey), to those who are angry at how commonplace this is (DeVante), to those who want to learn and understand (Chris). Thomas draws on the history of the civil rights movement to give historical context to a continuing issue.
This is a book about black people and black culture, with so many references and stories and parts of black history that make those who have grown up there. It’s so different to read about those things because they’re just never brought up in any detail in any other books that I’ve read, YA or not.
I’m biracial, mixed black and white, and even growing up in the UK, I understood a lot of the culture that was there. I too grew up listening to Tupac and Salt ‘n’ Pepa. I understand the trainer game and the restrictions that gang territory give you (although it was nowhere near as bad as what Starr has experienced). I know the Malcolm X quotes, even if they weren’t a massive part of my life.
I might be white passing but I’ve got a brother who can’t pass for anything but black that has been stopped by the police more times than he should have been. I think that’s what made this so real to me, and what made it really hard for me to get through the first few chapters. I also related to the family set up – my brother has a different dad to me and has siblings that outside of me and my sister. Again, this is not something I’m used to reading about in any fiction and the change made such a difference to how I read this book.
This can be an uncomfortable read. It speaks very much to how much race impacts who you are, and how you speak. It speaks even more so to racism in its most minor form – the one where you hide certain parts of yourself so that those around you are more comfortable. But that’s what makes it so important – the lessons that can taught in The Hate U Give are for everyone to know.