Overall Impression: A story about one girl’s struggle to stand up and speak the truth in a world of police corruption, racial inequality and classism.
The YA community has been awash with praise for Angie Thomas’s debut novel The Hate U Give, which follows young Starr, a girl from the hood who becomes a witness to a white policeman shooting her unarmed black friend. Can you say big, heavy HEARTBREAKING topic? I was concerned with how a YA novel would be able to tackle such a charged and current issue – but, I shouldn’t have fretted dear bookworms, because this was a respectful, honest, heartwarming tale, and well, I’m sorry to bore you but, I feel EXACTLY the same way as the majority of the blogosphere so you’re just going to have to put up with gushing about this novel like everyone else!
Thank you, Walker Books for the ARC ahead of the UK release date. Much appreciated!
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
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.
~ * ~
‘When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me.
One was the usual version. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.’
How can you read the above quote and not feel your heart being ripped to shreds? Can you feel the gristle tearing? The blood spurting? I can. There have been so many incidents – too many, where white police officers have arguably shot unarmed ethnic minorities and asked questions later. A black person is more likely to get stopped and searched by the police, individuals are more likely to misidentify an object as a gun in relation to an African American (like a hairbrush), and research shows that when a distorted picture of a gun is shown after an ethnic face, we recognise it for what is is much quicker than if a white face is shown [further reading]. This is the sad reality that we live in. No matter how certain we are of racial equality, these biases still exist. 16-year-old Starr has been given this lesson by her loving parents – to make no sudden movements, to keep her hands visible when speaking to the police that are supposedly there for her protection. Unfortunately, her friend Khalil breaks the rules and pays the price.
Angie Thomas tackles this topic with adept hands, touching on so many important areas. Her writing is crisp and honest. Simple but effective. I can’t believe this is her debut novel. I HAVE AN ANGIE THOMAS BRAIN CRUSH RIGHT NOW. However, her true triumph is that The Hate U Give never becomes preachy and doesn’t overstate its intentions. Instead, it wets your appetite. It shows you the surface and encourages you to go off and do your own research – to search out the stats, the inequality, the truth.
Our main protagonist, Starr is a bright young girl with a loving family who want the best for her. While she lives in the hood, and her father is an ex-con and gang member, her parents have worked tirelessly to get her into a good school in a predominately white neighbourhood to give her and her brother the best chances of succeeding. This gives Starr a unique point of view as events unfold following the shooting. She can view the situation from both sides of the fence which gives the reader unique insight into the events unfolding. She see’s the anger and hate on one side, and excuses and ignorance on the other excluding a select few. It’s heartbreaking watching her struggle as she pieces together how injustice can exist in the world.
From the outside, Starr coming out about her friend’s murder would seem simple. Everyone would speak out, wouldn’t they? But when it’s your life that will be pushed into the spotlight and picked apart by the press its not so easy. Especially when telling the truth could lead to gang members knocking on your door. When speaking the truth doesn’t normally lead to justice anyway.
“You think the cops want Khalil to have justice?” I ask.
The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen – people like us in situations like this become hastags, but they rarely get justice.
The Hate U Give also highlights how the media plays a part in these events – how while these stories are initially portrayed with shock and dismay, coverage can quickly turn to blaming the victim and dredging up their past to justify the situation. I loved how these ideas were explored, yet I feel Angie Thomas could have gone a little further during the trial stage, as things went too smoothly for Starr and I think the media would have picked apart her credibility a lot more and her families past.
While this novel is about an important topic, I can’t deny that for me, its core element and what made it so successful was that its also all about family and friendship. Starr’s family ties are so deep and true and heartwarming. When Starr is lost, her parents are there at every turn to offer advice and guidance, her Uncle Carlos and his family are always around to strike up a barbeque when things get tough. Starr’s boyfriend and friends have got her back, and the few who don’t are rooted out and shown up for the ignorant trolls they are. Each and every side character in this novel is a beautiful shiny penny to discover. Starr’s family became my family. Starr’s friends became my friends. I loved each and every one of them.
Overall, The Hate U Give is an honest, smart, brave and heartfelt snapshot of the failings in our current society. It’s important, and at times its dark, but it also gives you hope that things can change, and will change. I’ve only scratched the surface in this review because I could write a whole essay on one chapter in this book alone, but it’ll be much more fun if you discover its intricacies for yourself! I would recommend this book those 12+ who enjoy reading about big themes and tight family dynamics. The Hate U Give comes out on the 6th of April in the UK, so make sure you grab a copy pronto! 🙂
‘Once upon a time there was a hazel-eyed boy with dimples. I called him Khalil. The world called him a thug.
He lived, but not nearly long enough, and for the rest of my life I’ll remember how he died.
Fairy tale? No. But I’m not giving up on a better ending.’
~ * ~
Writing Style: 5/5
Character Development: 5/5
Would I recommend this book? YES MAM. *Nods enthusiastically.*