The Hate U Give is a debut novel by Angie Thomas and is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It’s also quite hilarious.
So, what’s it about?
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter witnesses the death of her childhood friend Khalil when he’s shot by a police officer while also unarmed. She lives in Garden Heights but goes to a school (Williamson) 45 minutes away from home where she is the only Black girl in her junior class.
I haven’t felt this connected to a main character in a very, very long time.
Starr’s feelings about having to act one way at home then act another way at school can easily be translated to adult life. Trade “school” with “the office” and “classmates” with “co-workers”, and you’ve got yourself a parallel storyline.”
“I just have to be normal Starr at normal Williamson and have a normal day. That means flipping the switch in my brain so I’m Williamson Starr. Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang–if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her ‘hood’. Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the ‘angry black girl’. Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank-eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is nonconfrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto… I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway.”
Starr watches as the media portrays Khalil as a possible drug dealer and a thug. She’s interrogated by the police, who focus more on who Khalil was as a person and less on the details of what actually happened. Starr is afraid to come forward in the media for fear of attention and being scrutinized, which goes to the heart of what this book is about–finding and using your voice.
“I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.”
“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 relationships are what make this book phenomenal. Starr’s relationship with her white boyfriend, Chris, who she feels won’t understand her life. Her relationship with her Black friends in her neighborhood, especially DeVante, and yes he was named after the singer from Jodeci ♥. Her relationship with her non-Black friends at school, in particular, with one white friend who says racists things but absolutely cannot see how her words hurt others. And her relationship with her family, which I felt was the most touching aspect of the book.
I absolutely love the family dynamics, especially Starr’s older and overprotective brother, Seven. He delivers some of the most hilarious lines in the book and has his own touching storyline. Starr comes from a loving, two-parent household, which is missing in a lot of YA literature. Her parents argue, but they love each other deeply. And not only does Starr love her parents, but she also respects them. She. Respects. Her. Parents.
I also enjoyed the relationship Starr had with her Uncle Carlos, who just so happens to be a police detective and a colleague of the officer who killed Starr’s friend.
What does the title mean?
The Hate U Give comes from Tupac’s definition of T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E.–The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everybody. Basically:
“Lack of opportunities. Corporate America don’t bring jobs to our communities, and they damn sure ain’t quick to hire us. Then, even if you do have a high school diploma, so many schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough. Our schools don’t get the resources to equip you. It’s easier to find some crack than it is to find a good school around here…”
“…Now think ’bout this. How did the drugs even get in our neighborhood? This is a multibillion-dollar industry. That shit is flown into our communities but I don’t know anybody with a private jet…”
“…Drugs come from somewhere, and they’re destroying our community.
You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils, who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they’re clean, and they can’t pay for rehab unless they get jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again.
That’s the hate they’re giving us, a system designed against us. That’s Thug life.”
The Hate U Give isn’t without flaws, but they are overshadowed by everything that is RIGHT and BRILLIANT about it. It will possibly make some people uncomfortable, but that’s OK. I think it is supposed to. And before anyone says it, no, this book does not portray all cops as bad. If you read the book, you will see that the main character points that out.
Did I mention there are some hilarious pop culture references? I love good pop culture references, especially ones centered around Harry Potter and 90’s culture–like in this book. Starr’s dad even compares the Harry Potter houses to gangs, and it’s, dare I say it, hilarious!
Oh, and Amandla Stenberg is set to star in the film adaptation.
This book is honest, authentic, powerful, comical, relatable, tragic, relevant, and real.
The Hate U Give is not only one of my favorite books of 2017, but it’s one of my favorite books–period.