The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, published April 2017 by Walker Books.
Read: April 2017
Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary/Issues
Get It Now: Wordery
Goodreads Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised, and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
The importance and significance of this book cannot be underestimated. Luckily, I read it before I realised just how hyped it was going to be, but rest assured, the hype is for good reason.
This is a debut, and an “own voices” novel, based on the concept of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The script has already been optioned with Amandla Stenberg set to star in the movie adaptation (Rue from The Hunger Games). As far as pressure goes for this book to meet and exceed expectations, Thomas must have been feeling it!
The Hate U Give tells Starr’s story, and gives us an insight into her world – both in her local black community where she lives, and in her predominantly white community where she goes to school. As a reader, we can feel the atmospheric shifts in the story as Starr moves between the communities, as well as the subtle shifts in Starr’s personality and behaviour depending on which group she is with – her friends from home, or her friends from school.
This book feels honest and real, and has appeal for a broad audience – Thomas has done an excellent job of making much of the story relatable – any reader can identify with issues Starr faces growing up (family drama, friendship cliques, feeling like you don’t belong), and then there are the race aspects some of us (OK, lets be honest, most of us) are ignorant to. The author weaves highly complex and difficult issues into a narrative that makes it impossible for the reader not to empathise. That’s not to say I always agreed with the characters, but at least Thomas made sure I understood them.
Thomas holds up a mirror to the (often privileged and/or white) world, which can be an uncomfortable experience, but she manages to not alienate the reader in the process. In this novel, stereotypes and assumptions are challenged, justice and accountability are called in to question, and the not-so-secret acts of victim-blaming and blindly rationalising and justifying the actions of those in authority are directly called out.
I can never truly begin to imagine the experience of being a black teenager in a racist world, but I do know that it’s important for silenced minority experiences to be heard, and those of us who are in privileged positions and/or who are simply ignorant of the issues, need to sit down, shut the f- up, and just listen.
It’s important to note that The Hate U Give is an incredibly well-written novel, with flawed characters, and a highly charged and emotional story-line. It is a little longer than your standard contemporary, but there was a whole lot to fit in to those pages, and not one of them was wasted. At no point did this novel drag, in fact for having so many well developed side-characters, the pacing was perfect, and a fair amount of on-point humour was used throughout. While it’s marketed as a YA novel, I think it should be read by all age groups, as it’s a game changer with the potential for lasting impact on those who read it.
“Funny. Slave masters thought they were making a difference in black people’s lives too. Saving them from their “wild African ways”. Same shit, different century. I wish people like them would stop thinking that people like me need saving.”
“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.”
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice. I think we all wait for that one time though, that one time when it ends right.”
“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.”
Have you read The Hate U Give? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and leave me recommendations for other great “own voices” novels!