The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
YA Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Diversity, Social Justice
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Everyone has been raving about this book and I can totally understand why. I still plan on picking up All American Boys by Jason Reynolds (especially since it’s on my required reading list for my YA lit course in the Fall), but I was eager to read this because it’s from a teenage girl’s point of view.
Sixteen year old Starr Carter is the sole witness to the shooting of her childhood friend Khalil, by a police officer who pulled them over. Everyone speculates about Khalil’s reputation and character – some call him a thug and a gangbanger, but some know he was more than just the difficult choices he made to survive. Starr is the only person who knows what really went down that night and while keeping her mouth shut may keep her and her family safe, no one may ever know the truth about Khalil, others like him, and their friends and families who have been unjustly condemned and hurt.
This is easily one of the most important books I’ve read this year. The story and characters are so relevant and timely and the topic covered is critical for everyone to think about and understand.
Starr is charming and authentic. She lives in a neighborhood overrun by gangs and drug dealers, but attends a prep school by day – her parents’ way of getting her a better and safer education. Her struggle to balance what she considers her double lives is real. At school she is the “token black girl” whose dance moves are automatically dubbed as hip just because of the fact that she’s black. Back at home, she’s the daughter of the ex-con-turned-good who owns the only supermarket in Garden Heights.
While kids are generally taught to go to the police for safety (as they should), Starr gets a very different kind of lesson from her father. He teaches her how to behave when confronted by an officer – what to say, what not to say, how to act, etc. She was taught how to protect herself from a police officer and that is just so…sad. And so unfair.
What I love about this book is that while it focuses on a lot of the large-scale issues we face as a society – racial prejudice in the justice system and shootings of unarmed black people by police officers – it also focuses on the little things, just as critical as the big ones, we don’t think about that we can fix.
Throughout the story, Starr begins to become more acutely aware of the little prejudices that she – and even we, as readers – overlook in daily life. At some point, Starr realizes that one of her friends has actually not been so friendly and has continuously made racial slurs and passed them off as jokes. Starr later learns that this person unfollowed her tumblr blog because Starr often reblogs content related to the “Black lives matter” movement.
This challenged me to think more intently about the little things that we say and do that may seem funny, but can actually be very hurtful in the long run. Implicit bias is a habitual behavior that can be really damaging if we’re not more considerate of others’ feelings and putting an end to this whenever we can is critical.
This also made me think about what justice really looks like. Is justice getting the right person behind bars? Is justice getting the verdict we want? Is it rounding people up for a riot or protest? Justice can take on many forms and can be as simple as teaching others to be more aware of other people’s points of view.
Verdict: I think Starr’s story gives readers a really insightful experience into what it’s like being a member of the black community and a part of these kinds of tragedies. It encourages us to use our voices whenever we can because it can be our greatest weapon against prejudice and injustice. It reminds us that we should never stop doing good – even when things don’t seem to be working in our favor and when the outlook is bleak, doing good will always be a light in the darkness and fuel toward a better world.
Whether you want to change the world or have little hope left for our broken society, read this book. Believe me, your faith will be restored.