Published by HarperCollins on February 28th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, People & Places, United States, African American, Social Themes, Prejudice & Racism, Emotions & Feelings
Reading Challenges: 2017 COYER Summer Reading List
Buy on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks
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.
“It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.”
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a powerful book centered around sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who witnesses one of her friends being gunned down by police. Starr, the only witness must decide if she’ll come forward and possibly endanger herself and family by exposing the truth or stay silent. Making life even harder for Starr is how she exists in two worlds: the inner-city neighborhood where she and her family lives and the posh prep school she attends. The novel was gripping, heart-wrenching, and honest. In light of what has been happening between the police and citizens of color recently, this novel is also quite timely, and at times difficult to read.
Starr Carter lives in two worlds. In one, she’s the daughter of a tough, reformed gangster who now runs a local store. She uses slang, has tons of attitude, and is forced to listen to the sound of gunfire popping off in the night. In the other, Starr goes out of her way to portray herself as the smart student she is. She doesn’t use slang, dresses preppy, and tries not to say or do anything the white kids at her school would construe as “black” or “ghetto.” She becomes so good at separating these different aspects of her character that she almost becomes two different people. The only person she shows all her sides to is her white boyfriend, Chris.
I loved how Angie Thomas portrays Starr. Thomas shows how difficult it can be for African-American people to navigate White America. If we show too much “blackness,” then we’re too ethnic or inappropriate. African-Americans get judged by how we speak, how we dress, and even how we style our hair. The flipside of this is that the way Starr behaves at school is frowned upon in her neighborhood. There, the Eurocentric affect Starr uses at school is seen as being too “white” or “good.” By attending the prep school, Starr is attempting to expand her opportunities, and have a future she wouldn’t have if she attended her local public school. Not only does this underscore how difficult it is for people in low-income areas to escape their reality and move into a different economic tier, it also underscores the disparity that exists between inner-city and suburban schools.
“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?”
The above quote becomes a major focal point in the novel when Starr has a confrontation with a friend who says something racist without realizing it. Not only does it call to mind the idea that Starr’s friend’s shooting was warranted because he was a “thug,” but it shows that even certain phrases and words have become common place in today’s society. People want so bad for us to be living in a time where racism doesn’t exist, that they’ve kept quiet whenever they’ve seen or heard something racist. Then when you comment on it, it causes a commotion leaving people confused as to why something said today is a problem when it wasn’t yesterday.
I can go on and on about this novel. It’s just that great and thought-provoking, but I’ll let you see for yourself. Angie Thomas brings readers a difficult story that will make you reflect on your beliefs about race but does so in a way that often has a lot of humor. Still, this book was pretty heavy, and I found myself putting it down after so many pages for a mini-break on YouTube or Instagram. However, I recommend this to everyone as a phenomenal read and think it should be mandatory reading in middle or high schools. The characters are well-developed, the story is timeless, and will give you lots to think about long after you’ve finished.