Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Hate U Give (Book Review)

Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publication: Balzer & Bray/Harper Collins
Genre: YA
Plot: Starr Carter is a teen inhabiting two worlds: the poor minority neighborhood of Garden Heights and the privileged world of Williamson Prep, where her parents send her and her siblings to protect them from gang violence. When childhood friend Khalil offers her a ride home from a party near home, Starr learns he has started selling drugs. Before she figures out how to respond to this, they are stopped by the police and during the resulting confrontation a nervous police officer shoots Khalil in the back as Starr helplessly witnesses his death. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Starr begins to question everyone around her – the detectives and media who portray Khalil as a dealer to justify his death, the school friends who don’t understand her new interest in social justice, the loving parents who want her to be safe, and neighbors who just want to live peacefully in their community – as she decides whether she should preserve her own anonymity/safety or speak out to tell the world what really happened that night.

Audience: Written for teens, The Hate U Give is also popular with adults. Acclaimed upon publication, it has won the National Book Award, the William C. Morris Award (for the best debut YA; Morris worked in Children’s books at Harper so he would have been happy to see it go to a Harper Collins book), a Printz honor book, Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and more.

My Impressions: This is a compelling story, inspired by the many recent police shootings, and was impossible to put down. However, what really makes the story is the incredible characterization of everyone in the book from Starr’s mother, a nurse; her father, a reformed drug dealer; and her white boyfriend Chris, who isn’t afraid to say they’re dating or to follow her to her neighborhood which at least one of her school friends calls the “ghetto”; her classmates at Williamson Prep and the black headmaster who doesn’t want to challenge the affluent white parents; and the Garden Heights neighbors.

In the last few years, I have read about many black parents having variations of this conversation with their children:
When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and the bees . . . . The other was about what to do if a cop stopped me.
Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot.
“Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do,” he said. “Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden noises. Only speak when they speak to you.”

There is a lot of fiction inspired by headlines and sometimes it comes across as forced. This book was inspired by the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant and feels very authentic and should create many opportunities for discussion and, one hopes, enlightenment.   I will say I usually can't stand books written in the present tense but I stopped noticing pretty early on.
Debut author Angie Thomas
Tupac: The title is based on Tupac’s Thug Life: The Hate U Give Little Infants F---- Everyone, which the author explains as, “When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they've been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots.”

Source: My copy came from the Boston Public Library. As part of the Roslindale Library’s Race and Inclusion programming, I led a book discussion on May 17th.  I highly recommend, even if or particularly if it is not your usual read.  Click here for an excerpt.

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