Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Walker Books
Published: April 6th 2017
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.
“I got my hands up. Follow directions still they shoot us. I’m fucking sick and tired of no justice. No peace. Promise me I’ll never pick your body off the streets.”
Last year, one of my favourite artists released a song as a response to the current political climate and the institutional racism that people of colour face in America every single day. It is needless to say that state violence isn’t limited to the United States, with the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan sparking riots across the UK in 2011, but the scale of this problem for these two nations is somewhat incomparable. The Hate U Give addresses this too common narrative by providing us with the other half of the story that mainstream media fails to tell.
“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice.”
The Hate U Give was everything I expected it to be and yet so much more. I finished it over a week ago and I’m still struggling to find words to express just how much I loved it. There is much irony in not being able to do this book justice in my review, but I’m going to try anyway. Get ready.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give is undoubtedly a political novel. In the aftermath of Khalil’s death at the hands of a cop, it does so much more than just telling Starr’s story. Starr, Khalil, Seven, Sekani, Kenya, DeVante, Chris and every other character within the novel felt as real as they were fictional. It is so easy to lose yourself within the narrative to the point where you forget what you’re reading. You forget that you’re reading a young adult book, because it is so much more than that.
“It’s a story. A love story. We can believe in. Death, birth, your life’s worth is trending. It’s a story. A love story. How vain are we to expect a happy ending?”
Aside from being such an emotionally charged, powerful and important novel, The Hate U Give is also just a really good book. The narrative voice is incredibly unique, and the cultural references – from memes to Harry Potter to Golden Oreos – add an element of humour despite the depth of the underlying subject matter. It was such an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.
For a contemporary novel, it’s not a short read and it’s definitely not light. And though I feel as if it could have been slightly longer, Angie Thomas does an incredible job in fleshing out all of her characters, touching on every issue in depth, and honouring the lives of all those who inspired her to write this story.
One of my favourite things about this book (although everything about it seems to be my favourite thing) is how it highlights the strength of family and community. It is so beautiful and heart-warming to see people putting aside their differences and pulling through during the most difficult times, which is one of the key messages that the book embodies. Standing in solidarity with our allies against a broken system.
“There’s a noise. I can hear it when the megaphone roars. Wipe the tears from this tear gas. Choice. We have a choice. Stand in front of your fear, baby, time to find your voice.”
The Hate U Give is more than just a novel. It is a powerful statement and a reminder that we need change. It is about finding your voice and fighting for justice, even when the odds are against you. It is brave, and honest, and inspiring. Much like its incredible author. Thank you, Angie Thomas. For reminding us of those we may have forgotten, and for not being afraid to tell a story that needs to be told.
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”