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.
Man. This book. Everyone needs to read this book. Not only because it’s important, but because it’s a damn good read as well. Angie is one talented human being. Sometimes, when a book is as hyped as much as this one is, it fall short of expectations. That is not the case here.
This is the kind of book we wish wasn’t necessary. But black people, especially young black boys, are still being disproportionately murdered by police. This book addresses the common arguments justifying these murders–saying he was a thug, pretending he had a gun when he was unarmed, that he threatened the officer when he didn’t–and slams the heck out of them.
Despite what some reviewers have said, this book is not anti-cop. Angie specifically made Starr’s uncle a police officer to offer a more nuanced perspective, that there are good cops, but often their power to do the right thing is limited. Uncle Carlos is suspended for (justifiably) punching someone while the officer who shot an unarmed black boy is coddled by the force and the public. This book isn’t ragging on cops. It’s shining a light into real, institutional problems that have a body count.
This novel also touches on other issues surrounding race, including racist microaggressions and how the people affected by them are painted as overreacting, thereby dismissing the pain caused. Tied into this is the issue of toxic friendships and how Starr felt the need to alter her personality to fit in at her majority white school so she wouldn’t be stereotyped.
Angie’s novel is also a good read in terms of characters and plot. I adored Starr’s sometimes dysfunctional but always loving family, and the sheer joy Starr found in her parents’ loving marriage was fantastic to read. They had their drama, of course, but at the end of the day it was obvious that Starr’s family cared for each other. The same goes for Starr and her white boyfriend, Chris, who made mistakes throughout the novel but was constantly trying to learn and do better. I also live for white people jokes, in all honesty.
Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give doesn’t provide easy answers, because there are none. If you’re looking for something that ties it all up in a neat, comfortable little bow, this book is not for you. But if you want hard-hitting truths, amidst plenty of heart-warming family moments, that doesn’t sugar-coat the reality of the issues of racism and police violence, this is an incredible read.