Reviews and Essays

Book Review – The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)


The Hate U Give ebook

The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas’s debut novel, and has garnered a ton of critical acclaim. It has now been adapted into a motion picture.

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.

Genres: YA / Contemporary

Format Used: e-Book

Length: 444 pages

My Rating: 5/5

From My Reading Challenge:

  • A debut author

My Thoughts

(Some Spoilers Ahead)

I know there was a lot of buzz about this book when it first came out, but somehow, I managed to put it off until now. When I finally remembered it was in my Kindle library and opened it up… I ran through it in 2 days. I. Could. Not. Put. It. Down. The book follows Starr, a 16-yr old girl who has had to learn to compartmentalize her life, split between two worlds: the “ghetto” and preppy private school. But, after witnessing a cop murder her friend, Khalil, Starr struggles to keep her worlds from colliding. This story is Starr’s personal journey to finding her voice. This book is raw and honest and visceral… and what’s really heartbreaking is that this book is barely fiction. Angie Thomas was inspired to write this book to honour the memories of so many young black lives that are taken (not LOST) by systemic violence and an unjust system.

I connected with this book in a lot ways, and I’m sure a lot of people do. The book is splattered with moments between family members and neighbours that felt like deja-vu to me, a girl who grew up in a black family but had predominantly white friends. The book had me 6% in, when I read the line: “There are just some places where it’s not enough to be me.” Even though Starr and I had very different upbringings, there are some basic truths in there that were so familiar. So real. Including the near obsessive references to 90s hip hop culture.

I love that Starr’s family is front and centre in this novel, which is not typical of the YA genre — but should be. Our families, and how we relate to them, is so much a part of who we are — especially, as kids. I love that the book is written in Starr’s voice, present-tense. There’s slang and cussing, but there’s also the experience of seeing this kid’s mind work through all of the crazy things she’s dealing with. Yes, that means there’s a lot of straight-forward heavy-handedness. Normally, that would really bother me, but in the context of such an important topic being addressed in YA-form, I’m okay with it. Being in Starr’s shoes is necessary because the book is about valuing empathy over sympathy. (MINOR SPOILER: The character, Hailey, lacks empathy — which is why her relationship with Starr may never be repaired).

I cried. I laughed. I was angry. And I toggled through those emotions the whole way through. It was an emotional roller-coaster and, in that way, it kept me on the edge of my seat. Was I freaking out wondering what the outcome of the police investigation would be? Honestly, no. (VAGUE SPOILERS AHEAD) I hate to say it, but, we all know how these go. I wasn’t reading it hoping to get a different outcome. I was reading it to see how Starr would handle the inevitable outcome. How it would affect her. How it would change her. What decisions she would make going forward, because of it. In that sense, the book fully delivered. I got to know Starr and her family, and I got to see them all learn and grow from a tragedy. A boy is killed… there’s no happy ending after that. But, there is hope, and that’s a beautiful thing.

“…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 this can be it.”

Selected Quote

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?

Who Should Read It

Everyone. We need to think about these things, and we need to do so from certain perspectives. Empathy is how we can build change.

This book has made it onto my now 2-Book long list of must-read recommendations. The other one is Kindred (Octavia Butler).

My Rating

I have implemented a standard rating system to my book reviews:

1 – Story, plot and character development are all poor

2 – Concept is intriguing but execution is sloppy or does not deliver on promises

3 – Story, plot and/or character are interesting but some aspects of the book are problematic and/or not fully developed

4 – Strong story, plot and character development but has little-to-no thoughtful commentary

5 – Strong story, plot and character development along with thoughtful commentary

I give this book a 5. It takes an uncomfortable truth and forces you to face it in a way that is completely compelling. It may be heavy-handed and written in the voice of a teen girl, but those choices are intentional, and the book is stronger for them.

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