“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”
― Angie Thomas,
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.
Young Adult / Contemporary / 444 pages
The Hate U Give was an amazing book that I read a while back, but didn’t get a chance to review until now. By the way, this is my review of the audiobook, which was superb. I had never read the print version of the book.
This book touches on the issues of racism and police brutality without holding back. I love that we walk a mile in the shoes of Starr, a black girl who is personally involved in a case of police brutality, and we get a sense of the anger and grief that she feels. I believe that through creating relatable characters and telling their stories, books like this can change people’s opinions and attitudes towards minority races.
Starr is a strong heroine, and it is amazing to watch her grow over the course of the novel. In the beginning of the story, Starr lives a double life: She tries to fit in at Garden Heights – her poor neighbourhood – and at her preppy school. She needs to show people at her school that she is not from the hood, while she needs to show people at Garden Heights that she is still “black”. However, Starr’s two worlds collide when she witnesses her best friend being shot by the police, and she needs to make the decision to be vocal.
We are with Starr on this journey as she discovers that some people disappoint her, while others surprise her in how much they care. We see Starr grow from being self-conscious and fearful, to someone who is not afraid to speak up and embrace who she is.
The characters are a highlight of this novel. I love Starr and her family: I love that her mother and father are portrayed as the multi-dimensional people that parents are: they are loving, though they are not perfect. I love that her boyfriend Chris and her friends Maia and Devante have personalities of their own. And even though Khalil was dead from page one, he is a haunting presence throughout the novel.
The pacing of this novel is slow. This is not meant to be a book that we speed through, it’s meant to be slowly digested. On the other hand, I feel that some scenes and chapters of the novel can be condensed or omitted to produce a more tighter work.
I was conflicted about the portrayal of villains in this novel: Officer 115 who had shot Khalil, and one of Starr’s friends who is a blatant racist. I typically want to see that villains have character, and I had expected that, over the course of the novel, these two characters would start to show dimension, instead of being portrayed as just bad. But on the other hand, this is Starr ‘s story. It’s not Officer 115’s story or the racist friend’s story. And if I were Starr, I would hate these people to the end of the world too.
I love the witty writing in The Hate U Give. The dialogue breathes life to each of the characters. And did I mention that the narration of the audiobook was stunning!?
The Bottom Line:
The Hate U Give tells an unflinching tale of how racism and police brutality can affect an entire family and neighbourhood, and how violence only begets more violence. I absolutely love the characters, the writing style, and the audiobook narration. This is a heavier book in the YA genre that can capture your heart if you give it a chance.