Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
"Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right."
The Hate U Give is going to be one of those books that I will find myself thinking about months (and probably years) from now. Angie Thomas’ debut novel is about a girl named Starr Carter and her life after she sees her best friend shot by a police officer. She and her two brothers go to a predominantly white prep school out in the suburbs, but her family lives in the ghetto of Garden Heights. The Hate U Give is technically a young adult novel, but honestly, I think every adult needs to read it. It focuses on the Black Lives Matter movement and navigating race relations in 2017. I truly cannot say enough good things about The Hate U Give.
Starr attends a Garden Heights party with her friend Kenya and runs into her childhood best friend Khalil, who she has not seen in a long time. He has new clothes and new kicks, so Starr assumes he’s dealing drugs. When shots are fired at the party, Khalil and Starr run and get in his car. But they don't get too far before a police car pulls them over. The white cop shoots and kills Khalil, leaving Starr screaming for her best friend. Starr’s father has taught her for years how to interact with police; always have your hands in plain sight, do exactly what the officer asks, etc. Khalil does not exactly follow those rules, but at the end of the day, he was shot for no reason. When his death becomes national news and people are saying Khalil was a thug and a gangbanger, Starr has to decide whether or not she wants to speak out against the police officer and tell everyone exactly what happened the night Khalil was shot.
Starr struggles with her thoughts on the police as a whole because her beloved Uncle Carlos is a detective, so she knows not all cops are like Officer One-Fifteen (as Starr memorized his badge number and can't bring herself to call him by his name). Carlos helped raise her when her father Maverick was in prison, serving 3 years for not ratting out his former gangbanger friend, King. Starr cannot justify the acts of Officer One-Fifteen as representative of all police officers because she knows and trusts her uncle to do the right thing.
As Starr adjusts to life without Khalil, we also learn that when she was 10 years old, her other childhood best friend Natasha was killed in a drive-by shooting. So not only does she lose her two best friends, she also witnesses their two murders. Honestly, I do not know how she is as well-adjusted as she is. I would need serious therapy for years. Through all of this, Starr struggles with her “Williamson self”, her persona when she is at school. Her two best friends, Hailey and Maya, have always been there for her, but lately, it seems like Hailey is pulling away. She has made some racist comments not only to Starr, but to Maya as well for her Chinese heritage. Starr does not want anyone at Williamson to know that she was the witness to Khalil’s death, so when she pulls away from her boyfriend Chris (who is white), Hailey, and Maya, no one understands why and what she is going through.
Another theme throughout the book is the gang life in Garden Heights. Starr's mom Lisa is a nurse and wants to get out of the ghetto, but her dad owns the local grocery store and feels like he would be selling out his black roots if they move to the suburbs. Even though Maverick is no longer a gangbanger, the two gangs, the King Lords run by King and the Garden Disciples, still wreak havoc in the neighborhood and make life harder for the Carter family. King keeps making veiled threats against Starr, her older brother Seven, and a friend of theirs, DeVante. Obviously I know nothing about the realities of gang life, but it is clear that the gangs' influence permeates all aspects of life in Garden Heights.
The title The Hate U Give comes from one of Tupac’s tattoos. Honestly, I do not know much about Tupac other than the fact that he may or may not be living life on a remote island now or is dead. But Thomas uses Tupac throughout the book to emphasize how often African-Americans are marginalized, even now in 2017. As a white woman, I have never experienced the same obstacles that black people face, but the more I seek out stories from other perspectives, the more I will gain insight and empathy for others.
I absolutely loved The Hate U Give. It won 2 Goodreads Choice Awards for 2017 and has been on the New York Times Bestseller List for 40 weeks. Clearly it resonates with what is going on in our country now and is a must-read for all ages. Also, Amandla Stenberg is set to star in the movie version. I am sure once the movie is released, it will reach more people and help foster even more discussion. Plus, I cannot wait to see how they bring Starr's story to life.
I have been trying to read more diverse books from authors of color, as well as stories with protagonists of color. I think it is incredibly important to represent all types of people, especially when raising young readers. If children can see themselves in a book, the chances are much higher that they will want to read. The Hate U Give is definitely one of the best books I have read all year, and I recommend this to all readers; 5 stars!
Let me know what you thought about The Hate U Give.