The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is an amazing, important, and extremely powerful book. It sends a strong message about race and racial biases in the system, and is a fighting book against injustice. I believe it is a must-read book, a book that is immensely relevant to political discussions happening today, but also a well-written and emotional story.
“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.”
Starr Carter goes to a preppy white private school, Williamson. She also lives in a poor black neighborhood. Starr maintains an careful balance between the two, but all that is gone when she witnesses the shooting of her unarmed childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a white police officer. Now the shooting is national news, and Starr has to deal with the racial tensions that flare up in the aftermath, her best friend insinuating that Khalil deserved to die because he was a drug dealer, and her neighborhood encouraging her to stand up and use her voice. All the while she is still grieving the loss of her best friend.
I loved the voice of Starr. I think she’s incredibly real, and deals with the aftermath of this the way any sixteen year old girl would. She’s obviously distraught and angry, but she has the added dimension of struggling to deal with the injustice of it all along with trying to heal. I also love how open minded she is, which I think is in part because of her parents (which I’ll talk about later). She’s brave, even though she doesn’t think she is, and I think it’s so moving to watch her realize the power of her words and the power she has to change things. First and foremost, this book is about a grieving young girl who was handed the power to try and change the world. She’s inspirational to me, a girl trying to find her voice.
“When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees… The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.”
When Starr and Khalil are pulled over, Starr runs through the rules that her parents told her about how to deal with the police. This alone was a giant bursting of my bubble, a realization of white privilege I didn’t even know I had, because I, a white girl in the suburbs, never needed to be told how to act around the police. It wasn’t something my parents needed to worry about, but Starr’s parents and the rest of the families in that neighborhood needed to worry about it every day, because they never know when someone, like Khalil, would be pulled over without explanation and end up being shot dead. When I was a child, I was told to look for a police officer if I ever needed help. They were supposed to be trusting and safe. But not for Starr or her family, or others that live in their neighborhood.
Many relationships in this novel were moving, great, and unconditional. I especially loved Starr’s relationship with her mother, father, and uncle. Each one is slightly different, but you know all of them have her back and are looking out for her. They’re very affectionate towards each other and are always there for each other. Her mother and father have such a cute relationship, where they respect each other immensely and display their love for each other openly. I absolutely love her parents. They teach Starr to be loving, and to help others. They’re both so strong, and want to make a difference in their neighborhood and help everyone out. I also loved the strengthening of the bonds between Starr and Kenya, a friend in her neighborhood, Starr and DeVante, a boy who needs help, and Starr and Seven, her older brother.
“Embarrassing dancing and dysfunction aside, my family’s not so bad.”
Another part of the book I enjoyed was Starr and Chris, her boyfriend’s, relationship. Starr’s black and Chris is white, and sadly, that still is a problem in today’s world. People still unconsciously (or knowingly) judge them, and they still have to deal with race problems in their relationship. But I absolutely loved them together. Chris genuinely loves every part of Starr, especially the parts that are different from him, and wants to know more about her and her life. He doesn’t care that she’s black and he’s white because he loves her, and they fit. I think the fact that The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is their show and the theme song is their song is so cute, and I love watching Chris make her laugh even when she doesn’t want to. Chris is always so willing to take a fool out of himself for her, but also have her back and watch out for her. Thomas explores the nuanced and complicated relationships between Starr and the rest of the world, but these relationships never become cliche or flat.
“I don’t have to decide which Starr to be with him. He likes both.”
The community in Garden Heights was also an unexpected pleasure to read about. It started off a bit tenuous, with gang rivalries tearing the neighborhood apart. But somehow, they all manage to gather around Starr, her family, and Khalil’s family, and watch out for each other. They sacrifice for each other and stand up for each other, and it was really beautiful to read.
“The truth casts a shadow over the kitchen—people like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right. Maybe.”
It’s absolutely tragic that police brutality against the black community still exists in America, and white police officers who fatally shoot unarmed black teens still get off as not guilty. And this book really brought that raw reality in the light. Everyone in the book has to deal with not only their grief, but the added aspect that the system holds a bias against them, and Khalil is now just another statistic. It was an emotional read, not only because it’s sad, but because it’s so obvious that so many people across America are dealing with this and nothing’s been fixed yet. Starr’s story and Khalil’s story reflects the story of so many other black families in America, who have to deal with racial biases and watch white police officers after white police officers be let off.
“What’s the point in having a voice when you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
It’s important to speak out against this injustice. Starr was scared at first, but learned that it’s her duty to Khalil to defend him. Too many times, the media portrays black men as guilty until proven innocent. This needs to be changed. There’s not much I can do to change that, but I can recommend this book. This book is powerful, moving, timely, and relevant. It has lovable characters, an interesting plot, everything a supposedly good book needs to have. But it does more than that. It rips into a problem our nation has unapologetically and exposes it. It tells a story that needs to be told, over and over again, until it makes a difference.
Have you read The Hate U Give? Do you appreciate the diversity in it? How do you like the social and political commentary?