Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give tells the story of Starr, who witnesses her innocent best friend Khalil being shot wrongfully by police in her home of the “ghetto” of Garden Heights, and how she struggles to find her identity between her home and the suburban high school she attends. It describes how she handles her grief and how she deals with the legal enquiry to his death as the only witness to the incident.
Thomas gives a painfully honest account of what is happening in America today, covering police brutality, gang violence, and the need for oppressed groups to band together and stand up against the ongoing injustice facing minority groups from the perspective of those who have been impacted by this directly. It highlights the reaction of her majority white school to Khalil’s death and the large gap that exists between their experiences and Starr’s, particularly when they organise a protest against police brutality so that they can leave school early rather than to honestly support the cause, labelling him a drug dealer and a gangbanger instead of focusing on the good he did for Starr and his family.
Starr’s gradual move into activism is key to the book, where she eventually becomes part of the Black Lives Matter protest, speaking out both at events and on national television about her experiences. It shows the power that individuals can have in situations like these, where only one person like Starr has to stand up against an injustice to inspire many others to join their cause and the impact this can have on a wider scale despite the consequences this may have.
I feel like The Hate U Give is more than a young adult book and is an important read for everyone, particularly people who haven’t experienced a situation comparable to Starr’s as it gives the reader a real understanding of the pressures girls like Starr must face on a day to day basis. The Hate U Give is a true reflection of today’s society and, although written for a young adult audience, refuses to sugar coat its issues to make it seem like less of a big deal. I think that readers of all backgrounds could take something from The Hate U Give, where black culture, institutionalised racism and its implications, cultural appropriation and society’s internalised racism are all presented in accessible ways.
For me, The Hate U Give is one of the best new releases I’ve read so far in 2017, and I hope that it (and the upcoming film adaptation!) will inspire many other readers to take a stand and fight for what they believe in, just as Starr did.
If you liked this, you might enjoy
- In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution – Susan Brownmiller
- The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Colour – Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua
- Seeing Red – Kathryn Erskine