Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Goodreads Synopsis: 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.
The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr Carter, a teenager who is basically caught between two completely different worlds, the economically depressed community she has grown up in and the affluent, mostly white high school that she attends. In Starr’s mind, these two worlds are incompatible and so she has compartmentalized each and crafted two separate identities for herself so that she can exist in each world. Although she switches back and forth between these identities with relative ease, she still spends the majority of her time pretending in an effort to fit in. The end result is that she can’t really be herself and, at the point we meet her, has begun to question if she even knows who the real Starr is anymore. What brings Starr’s struggle to figure out who she is to a head is when she witnesses her childhood friend Khalil being killed by a police officer during what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. Protests erupt and soon the shooting garners media attention. Everyone wants to know what happened that night and some are starting to fill in the blanks themselves, maligning Khalil’s character and referring to him as little more than a drug dealing thug. Once the media begins reporting on the shooting, Starr’s two worlds collide because now even her rich, privileged schoolmates are talking about it.
Starr, as the sole witness, is the only one with the power to speak up and secure justice for Khalil, who was unarmed and did absolutely nothing to warrant being shot. Will she remain silent and continue to hide who she really is because it’s easier that way or will she be brave enough to find her voice, step up into the spotlight, and try to get justice for Khalil?
The Hate U Give is, by far, one of the most powerful books I’ve read in recent years. It’s powerful not just because it’s inspired by and shines a light on the the importance of the Black Lives Matter Movement and because it exposes the systemic racism that continues to pervade our society, but also because it does so much more than that. It’s a beautifully crafted coming of age story as well, and it’s also a book about the importance of family and community. Angie Thomas beautifully weaves all of these elements together into a compelling story that hooked me from page one and that I can’t stop thinking about now that I have finished reading it. I don’t even think I really have the words to do justice to how wonderful a read this is. All I can say is that it’s one of the few books I’ve read in my life that I wish I could hand out copies of to everyone I come across and encourage them to read it and then share it with someone else.
I tend to measure how good a book is by how many emotions it makes me feel while I’m reading and The Hate U Give is off the charts in that respect. It made me sad and brought me to tears several times, it made me frustrated and angry, and it even managed to make me smile and laugh a few times along the way as well. I also felt the love between Starr and her family, as well as the love that held her community together. When I say it’s a powerful read, that’s what I’m talking about. This book is just so real and honest and raw that you feel EVERYTHING the characters are going through.
I fell in love with Starr right away. She’s immensely likeable right from the start – funny, smart, sassy, and also a wonderful daughter and sister — and it broke my heart to watch her feel like she always had to hide half of herself in order to fit in. It also broke my heart to learn that she has already witnessed so much violence and death in her sixteen years. I mean, seriously. She is 16 years old – her biggest concerns in life at that point should be where she’s going to college, who she is going to date, what color dress she is going to wear to the prom. Having to decide whether or not to speak out to defend her friend who was shot by a policeman should not be a part of her reality. The fact that it is the reality for some young people makes Starr’s journey all the more poignant.
Speaking of Starr’s journey, I loved watching her change and grow throughout the novel. She has some hard decisions to make. I don’t want to give away any specific details here but I’m just going to say that watching her decide what she’s going to do and then finding her own voice and true self was one of the most beautiful parts of the story for me.
It wasn’t only Starr that I fell in love with though. I loved her family too and I loved how important their role in the book was too. Her parents are so supportive of her every step of the way and vow to stand by her no matter what choice she decides to make. Their love, support, and the lessons they have taught Starr and her siblings are what ultimately help Starr make her choice: “Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr. It means you go on even though you’re scared. And you’re doing that.”
In many ways I connected with the parents even more than I connected with Starr, I guess because I’m a parent too. I cried when I read the passage about how there are two important lessons that Starr’s parents taught her and her siblings: 1) the birds and the bees, and 2) how to behave if you are stopped by a police officer so that no harm comes to you. As a parent, it just ripped my heart out to think there are fellow parents out there who have to teach their kids that second lesson. As a mom, I have always taught my son that the police are who you go to when you need help. No parent should live with the fear that their children are in danger if they come into contact with the police.
I also connected with the parents because even when they were at odds with each other about how to best raise their family, I understood exactly why they each felt the way they did. Starr’s mom desperately wants to get her babies out of this community and into a safer one. She’s a momma bear protecting her cubs all the way and I was right there with her. That said, however, I was also right there with Starr’s dad, Mav. What he said make perfect sense too. He doesn’t want to abandon his community. His view is how is anything ever going to change for the better if everyone just leaves and he has made it a crusade to save the community one child at a time. If he hears of a teen who has gone down the wrong path and ended up in a gang but then wants out, Mav makes it his mission in life to get them out of that life and back on the right path. I thought Angie Thomas did an amazing job of bringing these real parental fears to life and making it so easy for any parent to relate to and to sympathize with. Every parent can understand that fierce need to keep their babies safe, whether it’s by moving them somewhere else or by trying to change the community itself so that all kids are safe.
I have absolutely no complaints about The Hate U Give. My only dislike is reading the character of Hailey and knowing that there really are people out there in the world like her, who are either racist or just completely oblivious about how hurtful and stupid some of the things they say are. I cheered when she finally got the smackdown she deserved, although she clearly still learned nothing from it. I really hope that everyone will read this book and learn from it and that we’ll end up with a few less Haileys in the world going forward.
I’ve barely scratched the surface on why I think this book is so incredible. All I can say at this point is GO READ THIS BOOK! It’s eye opening and sobering, honest and raw, riveting and sometimes painful, but it’s also filled with love and hope, and I promise you that it’s one of the most important books you’ll ever read. Its message will stick with you long after you’ve finished the last page.