Starr Carter is a sixteen-year-old girl, born and raised in a poverty-stricken city neighbourhood where rival gangs rule the streets. In an attempt to keep their children safe, Starr’s parents send her and her two brothers to a predatory school in suburbia. She has learned to live as two versions of herself, adapting to the two very different worlds she inhabits every day.
Reconciling these two Starrs becomes immeasurably more difficult after her first spring break party. Her childhood best friend Kalil drives her home and, on the way, they are pulled over by a police car. Terrified, Starr immediately runs through the instructions her parents taught her at the age of twelve: Keep your hands visible, don’t make any sudden movements, and do exactly what the police say. Despite being compliant and unarmed, Kalil is shot, and dies in Starr’s arms. By painting him as a thug and drug-dealer, the media leads many to believe Kalil’s death was justified. The lack of justice for his death causes outrage and protests in the community, transforming Starr’s home into a war zone. With questions around the circumstances of the shooting, Starr has to determine whether she should speak her truth, possibly endangering herself and her family.
The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas’ brilliant debut novel. It is based on the Black Lives Matter movement, highlighting the personal stories of those affected. This novel is truly significant as it presents a perspective that is less commonly portrayed in literature. In the publishing industry there is a drive to encourage more BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) writers and employees at all levels of publishing. This campaign is to ensure that literature reflects the viewpoints and experiences of the population as a whole, rather than just those of privileged Caucasians. For this reason, The Hate U Give is a very important book as it has lead to the celebration of a Black author and recognition of the experiences of one group of ‘non-traditional’ readers.
The debut is written expertly, skilfully intertwining complex political topics with teenage friendships and relationships. There are numerous engrossing plot lines and the story progresses at a fast pace. The characters are very different, but all are fully-formed and intriguing. Their interactions are amusing and entertaining, pleasantly offsetting the tense subject matter.
I really enjoyed being immersed in a very different environment than the one I grew up in. That being said, I did not always agree with Starr’s reactions. But, I think that is the point. Although my perspective may sometimes mean that I don’t initially agree with someone’s reaction, the narrative teaches understanding and tolerance, validating the perspective of someone who experiences things differently than you.
Aside from being a heart-wrenching yet beautiful story, The Hate U Give preaches love, acceptance, justice, and compassion. I am thrilled the story was told through Thomas’ masterful pen and is gaining huge recognition in the YA genre. It is also wonderful that the story was written for the YA age group (teenagers to those in their early twenties) because it is important to expose this demographic to new experiences and perspectives.
I hope to be exposed to many more sensational novels that promote appreciation of minority cultures.
To learn more about The Hate U Give, read an insightful interview with the author, Angie Thomas.