Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Pub Date: 2017
My Rating: ★★★★☆
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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.
I’m so happy that books like The Hate U Give get published and give so many teens chance to read about experiences similar to their lives, or experiences that are so different than what they know that the reading forces them to think and check their privilege. The book was inspired by The Black Lives Matter movement and tells a story of a teenage girl witnessing her friend being shot by a policeman.
Story’s main character is Starr, a teenage girl living in Garden Heights, a fictional predominantly poor and black American neighbourhood. Starr is attending a private school where she is one of few students of colour. Starr isn’t the most popular girl, neither in her school or in her neighbourhood. In school, she is surrounded by privileged white, mostly rich kids. At home, she is surrounded by many people struggling with poverty, injustice and street violence. But it is what she knows, where her family lives and her dad runs a convenience store. She doesn’t feel like she fully belongs to either of those worlds. On one of the few parties that she attends in her home neighbourhood, where she unwillingly went with her step-brother’s sister. There she met her childhood best friend, Khalil. Cute guy, who she had a crush on when she was younger. The happy reunion ends when shots are fired at the party, and Starr runs away with Khalil in his car. Few streets away from the party, they are stopped by a policeman. They are both terrified, they didn’t do anything wrong, they don’t have anything illegal on them, by just being black can be enough of a reason for police to abuse their power. It was terrifying to read how those teen kids are experiencing an encounter with police, this is not how it should work…
Starr witnesses her childhood friend being killed and after that, she is in the middle of media frenzy, hashtags, people’s judgements. She firsthand experiences how media can build a narrative to support police, and making the teen boy a villain that should have seen it coming. The media circus has a huge impact on the perception of the crime, especially on people who are determined to judge people based on their skin colour, where they live and how rich they are.
All the characters in the story are well developed and strong, each in their own sense of the world. We get a glimpse into a world of many people, who live in one neighbourhood, but whose lives are completely different, or even a look at parts of the city that are far removed from the Heights. I liked the focus on family, especially in the YA contemporary novel. Parents are there for their child, they try as much as they can to support Starr. There was a quiet beauty in those scenes, where Starr was talking to her parents.