The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Balzer + Bray: 2017.
Ok. I honestly don’t know how to even write this review.
Usually I have at least a little bit of insight to share during a book review, and if I don’t, I don’t write a review. So. Why am I reviewing this book, then? TBH, because everyone else is, and I want to make sure people know that I’m in the know. Peer pressure at its finest.
I read this as part of a book club that I run on Goodreads – the Apparating Library Book Club, part of the Harry Potter Alliance. We are in the midst of a readathon right now called the Resist Readathon, and this was our first book. I knew before it came out that this would be the book to choose, and no surprises, I was right.
If you somehow haven’t heard of it, The Hate U Give, or THUG, is a YA novel about Starr, a teenage black girl who witnesses Khalil, her unarmed teenage black male friend, get shot and killed by a police officer after pulling him over for no apparent reason. This happens at the start of the novel and the rest then deals with the aftermath of this event.
And it is incredible.
It’s not over-hyped; it is everything that everyone is saying about it, and you need to read it. Now. Like, stop reading this review and go find a copy of this book, because this review is a complete waste of your time.
I hate sounding like a raving lunatic and copying what literally everyone else is saying about it, but at this point, it would be dishonest of me not to.
The novel is written in clean, funny, and relate-able prose, complete with tons of references to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Harry Potter (which, to be clear, is not why I liked this book, though it did help…). There is never a dull or slow moment in the plot. My heart was racing through several parts, and the “slower” bits are packed with emotion.
One thing I (and many other readers) greatly appreciated is how well the family relationships are developed in this book. Much of YA is all about friend drama and/or love interests, but this book (while it did have both friend drama and love interests) was at its core about family. My favorite character was Starr’s dad, Mav, and I loved reading the parts about him and their relationship. The term “family” here also extends to people who aren’t always considered when we think about what the word “family” means: the neighborhood and community where Starr lives is itself a kind of family, and so are the gangs who live there – though they cause trouble for Starr’s family and others, they also help each other. Many questions are raised throughout the book about who you owe for what and whether or not your needs should be put before those of your family. It’s at times heart-warming and at times heart-wrenching.
Starr’s arch as a character is absolutely perfect. She begins hesitant to speak out about what happened to Khalil because she fears for her family’s safety. But by the end, (highlight for spoiler) she’s standing on cop cars, speaking out about injustice, and hurling tear gas right back at the riot-geared police. She learns so much more about the people in her life and why people make the decisions they do. She learns to navigate two very different worlds: that of her home in an impoverished, gang-ridden neighborhood, and that of her school, a mostly white, upper-class private campus.
As someone from the well-off, white end of things, this book was one of those very important “walk around in another man’s shoes” books, to paraphrase Atticus Finch. I adored it; it made me feel things that were entirely new to me, and I will definitely be rereading it in the future. No matter your background, it’s an all-around excellent book, with a natural, modern style that just tells a great damn story and sends extremely powerful messages about racial justice. I’m sure it will be on required reading lists all over the country in the fall, and for good reason. It needs to be. If I were still a teacher, I’d be ordering them up right now so I could start conversations with students about these issues. Yes, it’s one of those “important” books, but it’s also just a straight-up good book. 5/5 stars without question.