- Title: The Hate U Give
- Author: Angie Thomas
- Genre: Young Adult Literature
- Pages: 464
- Format: Hardback
- Other: Goodreads, Amazon
- Grade: B (4/5)
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 don’t normally read contemporary realistic fiction because usually I find it boring. However, I like books that have an important message, and I like books that are different from the “norm.” According to what I had heard, The Hate U Give does both of these things, so of course I had to pick it up.
The Hate U Give touches on a few major problems in modern American society: police brutality and racism. And it does this through a teenage narrator named Starr. I love that The Hate U Give does this. I think it’s SO important for everyone to have a voice, and I think it’s so important for everyone to be able to find themselves in what they read.
Starr felt like a realistic protagonist. She felt like a real teenager who is trying to live in two completely different worlds, and because of this, experiences much internal conflict. But she also witnesses something horrible: the death of her unarmed friend, Khalil, by a cop. Unfortunately, this is a familiar narrative. Through Starr’s narrative, Thomas points out the problems circulating the deaths of many unarmed black men. Like in the book, the media tends to portray these men as criminals. But what Starr points out is that at the time Khalil was unarmed, at the time Khalil wasn’t doing anything wrong. So why does his past justify his murder?
I also liked the presence of parental figures in the book. It feels like in so many young adult books, the parents are ignored. They aren’t paying attention and for whatever reason, they aren’t really around. But Starr’s parents are an integral part of the novel, and that added to the realism.
Besides that, there were so many different kinds of people represented. There was Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend. Maya, Starr’s best friend. There were students who supported Starr and Khalil, and there students who used a tragedy for their own agenda. There were people who were blatantly racist, and there were people who didn’t realize they were being racist. Even though some may have found some representations offensive, they were representations of real people and real experiences.
However, there were a few things that I didn’t like about the book.
Even though I liked the message, I felt like the book was too preachy. There were scenes upon scenes of political discussions, of discussions of what is right and what was wrong, etc., etc. Instead of letting the characters (and the reader) learn things organically, I felt like Thomas used dialogue to force it on us. Because of this, I don’t think the message was as effective as it could be. I think this book is a step in the right direction and because I don’t have much to compare it to, I gave it four stars. But I think that as more books are published that address the same issues, the less brilliant this book will seem.
This “preachy-ness” is what made this book challenging to read. At least, it did for me. This is a major pet peeve of mine, and honestly, I’m not crazy about realistic fiction to begin with. Anytime I read a scene that’s too heavy on the lessons, I tend to stop reading. It is because of this that it took me over a week to finish The Hate U Give.
And I HATED all the slang. I get why it’s there. It’s supposed to feel real. Starr is supposed to feel like a real teenage girl. However, in the real world, teenagers don’t consistently use slang 24/7. It felt like Thomas was trying too hard to “get it right”.
Furthermore, slang changes fairly quickly. In fact, much of the slang used in the book is already starting to disappear and it has only been a year after publication. Slang dates your novel, especially in the young adult genre.
But ultimately, The Hate U Give is an important book that offers representation. It shows an experience that people need to read, and it makes you think.