Sometimes you read a book and you know that it's one that will be considered as classic literature years down the road. The Hate U Give is one of those books. I know for a fact when I re-read this book or even just discuss it with other people I am going to notice new things and learn more. I hope this book is placed in every high school library.
The Hate U Give follows Starr Carter, a sixteen year old woman of color who lives in a poor neighborhood but goes to a rich suburban prep school. She juggles these two separate worlds and finding herself conflicted on how she feels like she has to present herself depending on where she is and who she is with. Her world is shattered when she witnesses her childhood friend Khalil get shot by a police officer. She struggles dealing with hearing her prep school friends saying Khalil had it coming and hearing the news call him a thug while accusing him of being a drug dealer and gangbanger. Protests and riots start to form and with an investigation going on, Starr has to make the decision between staying silent and speaking up for what is right.
"I hope none of them ask about my spring break. They went to Taipei, the Bahamas, Harry Potter World. I stayed in the hood and saw a cop kill my friend."
I cannot recommend this book enough. Before I started The Hate U Give I had heard it was a Black Lives Matter book about a teenager who sees her friend get shot by a police officer. Obviously with what is happening with everything currently going on in America this book is tackling relevant topics. I had expected to be more informed and educated on what it is like to be a person of color in America. Those expectations were met, I do think that The Hate U Give does an amazing job with showing the reader the life of so many Americans that is shown so differently in the media. However, this book is that and more. The themes of love, family, using your voice, and even the definition of bravery were so perfectly written.
In this review I do talk about some of the events that happen in the book, so if you don't want to be spoiled just know that I loved the writing, characters, story, and just about everything else. The fact that it has such a huge focus on family make me really happy because those kind of stories are ones I love the most. I want everyone to read this book so go read it and then come back so we can discuss!
"Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right."
The characters were great. Starr is a character I really loved reading about. She's smart, kind, and ridiculously hilarious. Her humor and whit when she talked to her family and friends was so realistic but also clever. I also loved her parents, who were so well written. I saw my parents in them a lot when reading the book. From their protectiveness of their children to their love for each other (unfortunately for their kids, sometimes public affection). But at the same time I also really liked seeing parts of them I wouldn't ever see in my parents because of the hardships they have to go through because of their race. Their conversations with each other and arguments about moving made sense, because he feels so rooted in their community that it would feel like he was betraying them if they moved, but all she wants is to get her family somewhere safe. The sense of community and loyalty to that community runs so deep in Starr's dad's life and his choices that it was believable that he felt like he was betraying the people he knew all his life.
"Brave doesn't mean you're not scared, it means you go on even though you're scared."
I've always said that book were a great way to put yourself in perspectives you'd never get to experience as yourself. I think reading is one of the best weapons against prejudices or misconceptions about an event, a person, or a group of people because you're in the mindset of the main character. The Hate U Give put me in Starr's shoes and I saw her world from her point of view. I think it really helped show me that side of the conversation I'm not as informed about. I can read the news and empathize for the people going through tragedies caused because of racism. But when it comes to reading you're that character for the duration of your reading experience. Because I am white and I live in a state that is predominantly white, I cannot ever fully understand the experiences people of color have, but being Starr for the 4 hours I read The Hate U Give let me see a small sliver of that world through Starr's eyes. I can always listen (another great weapon against prejudices and racism) to people of color who tell their stories, and I will continue to do so, but it was eye opening to be in Starr's shoes and experience something that is an everyday occurrence for so many people of color.
The humor in this book were great moments of happiness during the tragedy of Khalil's murder. Obviously the topics of this story are serious and important but the characters still have moments where they joke around. Starr's jokes and attitude with her parents were one of my favorite parts about the book. Each character has a distinct personality that makes them so realistic. The Apple MacBook conversation between Starr and her Dad, and the conversation of Facebook with Starr and her mom (more on that later) had me laughing. Starr also had funny moments with Chris, DeVante, and Seven. Even Starr's internal thoughts were sometimes really funny. Also, I lived for all the Harry Potter references. I absolutely loved Starr's dad's Harry Potter theory.
"Okay, so it is a good theory. Daddy claims the Hogwarts houses are really gangs. They have their own colors, their own hideouts, and they are always riding for each other, like gangs. Harry, Ron, and Hermione never snitch on one another, just like gangbangers. Death Eaters even have matching tattoos. And look at Voldemort. They're scared to say his name. Really, that "He Who Must Not Be Named" stuff is like giving him a street name. That's some gangbanging shit right there."
Because of the raw way Angie Thomas wrote the sadder or more serious scenes I found myself tearing up quite a lot. Even in moments where Starr is just remembering what happened the night Khalil died, sometimes I would find myself get emotional because she is so young and she's already seen two of her friends die in front of her. There were many moments in the book where I found myself holding my breath and tense up because I wasn't sure what was going to happen and I was scared Starr would lose someone else in her life. Angie Thomas's talent of writing a story that is so heartbreakingly honest is to be commended. But also, the writing flows so well and seemed so seamless that the story played in my head like a movie. I saw the characters and setting in my head without having to try.
I also like Angie Thomas's inclusion of social media and how it plays in Starr's life. Twitter is an important tool for Starr and her friends to use to find out what is happening in the world but also how people are reacting. Twitter is where they turn when they need to know what is happening and where protests are gathering. It only comes up a few times in passing while Starr is talking to other kids her age, but it was enough to make the story seem more realistic. That's because Twitter has become such a huge part of where people get information about marches, protests, or just being informed on what is happening in the world in a way that feels more uncut. It's not edited through news networks but instead coming from the people directly affected by the event. I also enjoyed Starr's mentioning of Tumblr and using it to talk about the acts of violence against people of color in the past but also her blogging about Khalil. I think for so many people, social media has become a place to vent or express yourself because when someone likes or reblogs something you have said it makes you feel not alone in those feelings. However, she also uses these moments to talk about how although social media is a great platform, it isn't enough to just tweet about injustices but also to use your voice and work towards a world where these tragedies are not as frequent and that justice is served.
"People like us in situations become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right."
Although, social media and technology was used to bring humor into the book also, like the scene with Starr and her Dad talking about the Apple Macbook.
"'You still got that old laptop? The one you had before we bought you that expensive-ass fruit one?
I laugh. 'It's an Apple MacBook, Daddy.'
'It damn sure wasn't the price of an apple.'"
That scene had me laughing so hard, especially since it reminds me of a conversation I had with my mom once. And there's a scene where Starr is explaining Tumblr to her mom.
"'What is Tumblr anyway? Is it like Facebook?'
'No, and you're forbidden to get one. No parents allowed. You guys already took over Facebook.'
'You still haven't responded to my friend request yet.'
'I need Candy Crush lives.'
'That's why I'll never respond.'
She gives me 'the look.' But I don't care. There are some things I absolutely refuse to do."
Their back and forth reminded me so much of me with my parents, and I think just the relationship Starr had with her parents is one many readers will be able to relate to. I cannot stress enough how much I love stories with family as a core theme.
There's a really interesting dynamic where Starr is worried about telling her dad about her boyfriend Chris, because he is white. I like the way that was played out and that the reasoning for her dad having such strong feelings about it made sense. I liked Chris's friendship with DeVante that was really nice. Their banter and growing friendship because of their love for video games felt natural and I liked how Starr's two worlds seamlessly molded together by the end of the book. There's also a dynamic with her friend Hailey not being able to differentiate between a joke and a harmful joke. Hailey didn't understand that you don't get to decide what hurts someone, even if your intentions weren't to be harmful, and that if you do say something that harms someone you should apologize regardless of your intention. I liked seeing Starr grow as a character and learn that even if in time Hailey may mature and grow, it's not Starr's job to always be there to teach her what is a right and wrong thing to say. And that Starr doesn't have to wait around and be patient for Hailey to be kinder, that she is allowed to let Hailey go if the bad parts outweigh the good parts of their friendship.
I can probably rave about this book for forever, so I am going to conclude by saying I am really happy that this book exists. For privileged people who can read it and be more informed of a world we will never know or experience, but also for people of color (especially teenagers) who are seeing their stories and themselves in a book that represents their lives. And I don't just mean the tragedies that happens in this book, although that is something that is a reality for a lot of people, but I also am referring to those readers being able to see their culture and neighborhoods represented in literature. It makes me happy to think of a teenager like Starr or like Seven and DeVante reading this book and helping them gain their voice or help them learn their self worth.
"What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?"