Book Review: “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas

April 3, 2017

The Hate U Give is set to become a modern classic, a stunning contemporary read that captures with unflinching insight the current climate for growing up young and black in America, from the creative voice of an author who has lived and breathed what she writes. The most highly anticipated book of 2017, the debut YA novel from author Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give is a heartbreakingly gripping, honest, furious read that places injustice and inequality on the page and demands you laugh, cry, rage, and act now to show the world the meaning behind the movement that inspired it, that Black Lives Matter. Readers will fall in love with Starr and root for her as she takes her pain and frustration and chips at it until she has a weapon of change. Through Starr, Thomas is raising a voice, holding a placard, and demanding justice for underrepresented black teens in YA and those real-life teens torn apart by the system.

The Hate U Give is a timely, character-driven story packed with moments of fear and love, heartbreak and humor set in Garden Heights, its title born from a Tupac quote. Starr Carter has seen more death than her young years should allow, with lives discarded in the crossfire of a messed up social hierarchy. Witnessing another moment of brutality, Starr finds herself forced to confront the systematic racism within law enforcement and the wider culture it serves.

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.

 

What Charlie thought:

With a sharply honest, heartbreaking, humorous, and engaging writing style, you can’t help but keep turning the page to find out what happens next. It will crack you up and break you down with its razor-sharp insight and clever tongue.

Starr is drawn in a startlingly clear first-person narrative, with code-switching dialogue woven throughout Thomas’s powerful prose to show Starr both at home amidst family and in the halls of the predominantly white school she attends. Starr herself is a multifaceted protagonist who shows a real teenage spirit, at once tender-hearted, sweetly loyal, funny, flawed, justifiedly tired, hurting, smart, fiercely brave, and demanding of justice. Angie Thomas’s fearless narrative offers a steady gaze at white complacency while centering its black protagonist with familiarity and understanding. It interlaces its serious moments with music, excellent kicks, and a tongue click at and a shrewd eye for mainstream pop culture. Looking at Starr’s dad’s take on Potter Houses and gang mentality will change your life. Starr’s final battle will steal the breath from your lungs.

You will be incredibly moved, horrified, enraged, and energized by this much-needed story. It is full of tears and laughter, unfettered fears and furious joy, family and friendship. For fans of All American Boys, Noughts & Crosses, Allegedly, Orangeboy, and Terror Kid. Movie rights have been sold to Fox, with Amandla Stenberg to star. Put it at the top of your 2017 reading list and share it with all.

 

I asked fellow blogger Sahina to share her thoughts with us as well, for a more in-depth review. Stay alert for spoilers ahead.

 

What Sahina thought:

Holy mother of feels. This book. This book. THIS BOOK. Can you tell my nose is flaring, I’m breathing hard like my fat-cat-Garfield-like-self? That rarely happens, except for when I finish a book and feel like I’m about to spontaneously combust. But less about my internal emotions and more about this book.

While this may be one book, there are so many stories told within it. So, so many. A story about racism. About stereotyping. About our current social climate. About interracial couples. About friendship and loyalty. Family. (Has the word “about” started to lose all meaning to you too? About time, eh?)

Angie Thomas has written one of the most relevant, moving, and fiercely powerful stories of this year, of many years even. She’s given a solid, authentic, and undeniably moving voice to a movement, to a group of marginalized and hurt people who are being killed in broad daylight at the hands of the system meant to protect and serve – simply because of the color of their skin. As a Muslim woman myself, who wears a hijab, I have had my fair share of verbal abuse, endless streams of stereotyping, and rude comments, but the plight of black people, the plight born and raised in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, is far more dangerous and, horrifically, far too common. There are many, MANY groups of people, races, and faiths, that are marginalized and abused – but in this current day and age, none more so than Muslims and black people. Yet if you put one of each in a car in current-day America, who do you think is more likely to be stopped, stereotyped on the spot as a thug, and shot at for no reason?

There’s so much in this book that makes you sit up and take notice, really hone in on what’s going on, both on the surface and under the radar. Angie takes on a lot of really hot topics, and despite being a debut author, with her flawlessly on-point narrative and honest commentary through her character of Starr, shines (pun intended) light on issues such as the drug industry and the vicious cycle of damage it causes in black neighborhoods. These “thugs” in her story are mostly borne of unfortunate circumstances and poor prospects for their future, which pushes them into this cycle and never lets them leave. The media, its representation of minorities, and the tragic way in which it can distort reality, makes people see and believe what it wants them to, sometimes without even saying a word. Racism, the many faces of it, whether intentional or not – like even a simple comment about fried chicken being thrown out there – is racism. You may not be a racist person, but that sure as hell doesn’t stop you from making racist remarks. Intentional or unintentional, it’s racism, white privilege, and prejudice at its best.

At the heart of it all is the issue of police brutality, how all it takes is one single misinterpreted moment for your life to literally come crashing down around you. For your life to be taken. And all you will hear about it is the race of the person killed, the color of their skin, their age, and their stereotyped persona – in that order. Black teenager, aged 18, killed in connection with suspected drug cartel and in possession of a gun. Often not even a name, no mention at all that they might have been a straight-A student, a kind boy who helped around the neighborhood, unless of course it’s a white person. In which case their name, followed by their many accomplishments and possibilities of a scholarship or promising athletic career, are the first things you’ll hear about. Layers and layers of positives to hide the dirty deeds of rape, or assault, or the fact that they stabbed an unarmed, innocent black person in the back simply because he was black. Can you tell I’m angry? I am. You should be tooWe all should be. This story, about unarmed Khalil, is more than just a story, though brilliantly told – it’s the reality of black people in this day and age.

The characters in this story are outstanding. Every single one. Starr, her courage and fear – both go hand in hand in making her an extremely relatable, honest, and raw character to perfectly move this story forward. Her parents and family – whom I simply adored, especially her uncle – were heartwarmingly real, putting the needs and wants and safety of their children first and foremost. Her dad, whom I especially loved, was such an important character – he didn’t coddle Starr but nudged her to be her own person, to be brave, whether or not that meant putting a target on her back, because as her dad, he would always have her back and wouldn’t let anything happen to her. He wanted her safe, but he also wanted her to be honest, unafraid, unashamed, and fierce – for her voice to be heard. Starr’s uncle – a police officer himself, who bruised his knuckles on the man who dared point a gun at her. Her half-brother Seven, who jumps in the middle of a fight to protect his sister in school. These black men aren’t meant to be heroic and glorified, but rather these are what real, normal, black men are. Family men, men who love and protect – not molded to fit the stereotype of thug, gangster, druggie. Starr’s white boyfriend, Chris – though this book wasn’t about the romance, throwing that in there was another great move from the author to highlight not only the differences in Starr’s world versus Chris’s but also how, through understanding and communication, these differences and why they matter to each can strengthen a relationship.

There’s so much to say about this book – the characters, the story, the love and the loss, the feelings it gave me when reading it, and the many, MANY moments I was brought close to tears. This is such an important book that dissects facets of our society – the flaws, the pitfalls, and also the hopes for the future about human resilience and courage. But also, it’s a fantastic book in itself, written with such authenticity, from a black author, weaving together not just some of the most important parts of our history, but also bringing together a book worthy of reading and, weirdly, enjoying, as there was laughter, sadness, and so much more hidden under the many layers of this story. Characters that stand out, events and dialogues that really pack a punch – this was one hell of a debut from Angie Thomas, and I would trade my left arm to read more of her writing in the future. Believe every word of hype about this book and then some – because you will not be disappointed. You will laugh, you will learn, and you will hopefully come out the other side just a little bit more aware, a little bit more attuned, and a little bit more courageous.

 

You can also find Sahina’s review on her blog, Reading In Between The Lines.

 

Copies of this book were provided by the publisher for review.