I came across this book by sitting in Manchester’s Deansgate Waterstones studying on the night that Angie Thomas was doing a talk and book signing. Whilst I was sat in the café studying, Angie Thomas and a large group of other people were sat on the table next to me having drinks. I overheard their conversation, particularly when a young man thanked Angie Thomas for writing a book so powerful and inspiring. Intrigued by this man’s comments, I thought I would check the book out.
The Young Adult novel, The Hate U Give tells the story of its 16 year old protagonist, Starr, who is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Starr is caught in a horrible situation as she needs to decide whether she will take her witness statements to the press and get justice for her friend. By doing so, she could make herself a target to gangs, the media and even death threats. Will she have the courage to do what is right? Will the police officer get away without punishment for shooting an unarmed teenager?
If this plot sounds familiar, it is because these awful events are happening today in the USA and have had a spotlight shone on them by the Black Lives Matter campaign. Through this campaign, the injustices of innocent black people being brutally beaten or shot by police officers have been highlighted to the world. Even though I live in England, I am aware of Black Lives Matter and know how prevalent these shootings are in America.
I remember watching the news footage of crowds in Ferguson with their hands in the air, protesting about the shooting of Michael Brown by police officers. I remember watching harrowing scenes as tear gas was fired into the protesters and armoured trucks rolled in, applying a curfew. I also remember watching the news footage of Eric Garner being forced to the ground by police, and held in a chokehold despite pleading “I can’t breath”.
It is obvious that The Hate U Give is a highly relevant novel, considering the political turmoil which is happening now. Its title, and themes it explores, are inspired by the Tupac song, THUG LIFE.
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody”
The Hate U Give is an incredible debut novel by a promising young author. It is a powerful story told in a raw and realistic way, which never borders a ‘preachy’ attitude. Thomas has a raw power to her writing, making her novel gut-wrenching, topical and eye opening. As a Young Adult novel, it can also be praised for educating people. It certainly opened my eyes to an environment which I was not familiar with, being from a country where guns are illegal. By highlighting the injustices facing these communities, this book made me feel uncomfortably privileged for having white skin. It is a book that makes its reader think about the world we live in.
“A hairbrush is not a gun!”
Other than racial discrimination, it highlights the void between the working classes and middle class, reflected by Starr going to a ‘posh’ school away from the suburbs that she lives in. Thomas gives her two identities, the ‘posh’ one around her school friends and the ‘real’ one, where Starr can be herself with her family. Starr’s inner battle for her identity culminates in her relationship with her white boyfriend from school. Can she open up to him and reveal what she witnessed that night?
Angie Thomas’ characters are entirely believable, with Starr’s narrative voice being absolutely believable of a teenage girl, who prides herself in her Jordans sneakers. Starr is an inspirational female character packed full of courage. Her family’s characterisation is also realistic, with flaws being visible alongside their unwavering loyalty for each other.
“When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees… The other was what to do if a cop stopped me.”
This is such poignant and powerful writing which left me astonished me that people would have to teach this to children at such a young age. When pulled over by the police, children are taught that they should keep their hands visible, not move and only speak when spoken to.
Thomas is brutally honest in her ruthless depiction of the media, who accuse Khalil of being a drug dealer without any evidence, just based on stereotype alone. This is a symptom of the age we are in at the moment, with ‘fake news’ and Thomas ruthlessly exposes this. She is not afraid to shy away from controversial themes or violence, which helps make her a fantastic author.
The Hate U Give is a stunning debut novel and I urge people to pick it up and read it. I can’t wait to read whatever Angie Thomas publishes next!
RATING = ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐