The Hate U Give is a timely and necessary debut novel by Angie Thomas. Starr, the 16 year old protagonist, is with her friend Khalil when he is pulled over and killed by a police officer. The narrative follows Starr as she deals with the tragedy of losing her friend, the injustice of the shooting, and her journey into activism and finding her voice.
Starr and her family live in Garden Heights where her father runs a neighborhood store and her mother is a nurse who works in the community’s clinic. Her older brother, Seven, and her younger brother Sekani round out the family. Starr and her brothers attend a largely white private school, away from their neighborhood, where both Starr and Seven excel. At the beginning of the book, Starr keeps her Garden Heights life completely separate from her life at school and has a version of herself for each of these lives. As the story progresses, Starr has difficulty continuing to keep her two lives separate, as the truth about Khalil’s death becomes national news and the ramifications for his death are played out in her neighborhood.
Thomas’s book hooked me from the beginning and never let me go. This story is so important at any time, but especially in 2017, as we continually hear stories similar to Khalil’s in the news. The Hate U Give sheds light on issues that need to talked about. Most importantly, this book provides an opportunity to start a difficult conversation, to practice empathy for each other, and for us to examine our reactions to stories we hear in the media.
I have to say, for me personally, this book was an eye-opener. It allowed me to take a step back and examine my own reactions to news stories and to the media’s portrayal of events. In addition, the book provided insights into activism, speaking up, and choosing the more difficult path because it’s right. I could not love this book more.
What I loved about Starr is that even though the outcomes to the conflicts in the story are not what she wants, there is still a thread of hope throughout the novel. I know that no matter what, Starr will not give up on fighting, trying to make a difference, and ensuring that her voice is heard. And she will not give up on the hope that things will change. I love her for that.
Bottom Line: I would recommend this book to high school students and adults alike. (There is some language, domestic violence, and sexual references in the book. All of this is authentic to the story and not gratuitous; however, for middle school readers, just be aware.) Even if YA is not usually your thing, give this book a try. I think everyone has something to gain from reading it. My rating is a no-brainer–5/5.