“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
I am honestly floored by The Hate U Give. Everything about this novel touched me in irrevocable ways and I like to think that my eyes have been opened even further to the issues POC face, not only in America, but across the world too.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
From the very first page, I was completely engaged in the story. Angie Thomas is a phenomenal writer, relying on pathos to get her message across. And she certainly did. By the end of the novel, I was in tears and had so much rage inside of me, I didn’t know what to do. I have always tried to follow the Black Lives Matter movement in America, and my friends and I converse about racial issues (and many other political issues) all the time, but it’s still something that is foreign to me because I am white. I can read as much as possible, but I will never truly understand. But reading this book definitely helped and I truly believe it should be required reading for high school. Perhaps one day it will be.
“It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.”
I learnt so much from this novel, not just about the wave of systemic racism corrupting America, but also about the long history of POC fighting for basic human rights: the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Dr King, Huey Newton, Tupac Shakur, and so many more. It was like getting a really interesting history lesson, and after the book was over, I spent a good hour Googling many of the people the novel spoke about.
Before I get into the plot, I want to mention Angie Thomas’s incredible ability of writing realistic young adults – which, surprisingly, is not something you really see in YA. There’s all this pressure to make YA characters witty, mature, wise above their years – basically a John Green character – and it always annoys me how teenagers can’t just act like teenagers. But in The Hate U Give, the teens were normal kids who behave like normal kids and experience all the things normal kids do: dating, using Tumblr, laughing over memes, obsessing over Jordan shoes, binge-watching TV … it was just great to read about normal teens.
“I can’t change where I come from or what I’ve been through, so why should I be ashamed of what makes me, me?”
Starr is perhaps one of my favourite YA protagonists now – I loved everything about her, from her confidence, to her fears, to her worries, to her self esteem. She is a fantastic YA character and a wonderful role model. I found her struggles between the rich, white world she was a part of, and the black neighbourhood she was from very compelling and complex. I think many people, irregardless of skin colour, can empathise with her inner battle: she has all this pressure on her to stay true to who she is, but at the same time, doesn’t want people to label her as the “angry black girl” if she states her opinion too strongly or says something too loudly. She’s exhausted and the reader feels her pain and exasperation.
Starr has the absolute best family. I can’t even begin to explain my excitement at reading a YA novel with a functional, loving, whole family because it is so rare. I adored the loving relationship between her parents – Starr basically calls them her OTP, and they are 100% #couplegoals. I also loved the way Lisa and Maverick, Starr’s parents, treated their children with such love and respect: there were many scenes of the parents telling their kids how much they love them and how proud they are of them. It honestly brought me to tears. The family dynamics were written to perfection and was the bright light in this otherwise dark novel.
As you would expect, the plot was just heartbreaking. Even though I knew what was coming, I still sat there praying that the events wouldn’t unfold like the blurb told me they would. I was terrified for each and every character in the novel, and just wanted them to make it to the end. But in the end, it sends a vital message in a hopeful way.
“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”
The storyline is incredibly important, as you would expect, but also very inspiring. Starr talks a lot about Black rights and speaking up, but makes such a good point that when it was her chance, she wanted to be silent due to fear. I think that’s such an important message to illustrate because so many of us – myself included – believe that if we are ever involved in unjust circumstances, we would speak out and do our best to restore that justice, but in reality, I doubt any of us would. It’s so easy to say you will do something when you are not in that situation. And that’s what Thomas wants us to think about: we may be scared in such a situation, but we must try to move past our fear and stand up, speak out, and try to make a difference. Speaking up and speaking out is always right. As Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
I don’t want to say anymore about this book because the less you know, the more powerful your reading experience will be. All I can say is, read this book. It’s one of the most compelling YA contemporaries I have ever read. Angie Thomas has a long, amazing career ahead of her as an author, and I can’t wait to read her future works.