Also by this author: On the Come Up, Concrete Rose
on January 1st 1970
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.
I’ll be totally honest with you. I think I put off reading The Hate U Give for quite a while because I was intimidated by all of the hype. Diversity is such an important and such a needed topic in YA right now, and I wanted to go into The Hate U Give when I 1) Had enough time to devote to reading it in as few sitting as possible and 2) When the hype had died down and I could really focus on it. This course of action proved fruitful because I finished The Hate U Give in less than one weekend (a rare occurrence for me) as I could not put it down. I spent most of Friday and Saturday night curled up on the couch with one of the most important narratives I’ve read in YA.
Angie Thomas’ debut novel focuses on a lot of topics that are not only relevant, but burning issues in today’s United States and current change in administration. Racism. Classism. Police Violence. Rioting. Death. There’s so much that’s packed into one contemporary novel, yet it never felt heavy handed- it still managed to be a YA book about family, friendship, relationships and self discovery amid all of the chaos of the plot as well. Starr, the novel’s protagonist, has her story begin with a horrifying situation that happens all too often recently: her and her friend are stopped by a police officer under the guise of a traffic stop, and the police officer shoots and kills her friend. What ensues is a landslide of violence and anger, growth and resilience. Starr grapples with her friend’s death and what her role as a witness can do to help shed light on the situation and other similar situations. She deals with making very real decisions about what is best for her and her family’s own safety vs. what could help more people in the long run. There’s an enormous amount of weight to the situations and decisions made in this novel, yet Thomas crafts it in a way that doesn’t pass judgement on Starr and her family, no matter the route that they take.
However, what I found most striking and compelling about The Hate U Give is that it didn’t divide the world into right and wrong- most topics were written in shades of grey. For instance, there is constantly the anxiety surrounding police violence and police brutality, as Starr’s childhood friend is murdered before her very eyes over a perceived threat that wasn’t there. Yet Starr’s uncle is a police officer who has had a successful career and lives an upscale lifestyle that often provides comfort and safety to Starr and her siblings when her own neighborhood cannot. Showing the dichotomy of these complex issues and how one stance is not completely right or wrong and how Starr grapples with these issues was such an important part of the novel. Her growth and the growth of the entire cast of characters, who felt like a fully fleshed out community, was absolutely phenomenal.
At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.- The Hate U Give, Kindle Edition, 62%
Overall: The Hate U Give is an incredible novel that takes so many issues and explores them while still focusing on strong relationships, dispensing wonderful wisdom, and making one feel as if there’s still hope as long as people are willing to fight against injustice. I hope that this is the first of many novels by Angie Thomas, who has proven with one book to be one of the most important YA writers on today’s shelves.