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March Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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March Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Caroline Owen

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, 444 pages, YA fic

Warnings: racism, gun violence, mentions of gang violence and drug use,

Themes: overcoming adversity, race and identity, family, gun violence, police brutality, Black Lives Matter movement, activism, community

 

A gripping tale of how one girl’s tragic involvement with the shooting of an unarmed teen transforms her and her community into activists for the lives of their family members, friends, and mentors whose lives were claimed by gun violence. ★★★★★ (I’d give it 10 stars if possible.)

 

REVIEW:

 

In the neighborhood of Garden Heights, everyone knows each others’ names, families stretch into the double-digits, and one message is instilled in every Gardener’s heart: have each other’s back, no matter the circumstances. The sense of community within the predominantly African-American town is stronger than anything else, not faltering in the case of poverty or crisis. In actuality, a crisis is what brings Garden Heights together the closest.

 

Starr Carter is not your typical sixteen-year-old; she’s seen her best friend die right in front of her eyes. Twice. Once when she was ten years old as a result of a drive-by gang shooting, and a second time right at the beginning of the novel. Driving home from a block party Starr and her friend Khalil were at, Khalil is pulled over by a cop, Starr in the passenger seat. The officer asks Khalil to get out of the vehicle and searches his body and car. Khalil, held at gunpoint by the policeman, turns around to check if Starr is okay in the car. Three shots ring out in the night, and in an instant Khalil is dead, lying in a pool of slick red blood. Starr is frozen in place, afraid if she moves to check Khalil’s body, she’ll be shot at as well.

 

For weeks, Starr is shaken and afraid, confused as to why her best friend was killed and fearful for her own life. She can’t pass police cars without wondering if she, too, is going to be gunned down. Her family and neighborhood are in a similar state, and as Garden Heights begins to uncover the truth of Khalil’s death (he was unarmed), the community rallies for justice.

 

In the days after Khalil’s killing, Starr is conflicted about whether to provide a statement about the incident. As the only witness to the murder, Starr holds the responsibility of clearing Khalil’s name, but what she chooses to tell the police and her community can alter her future permanently and possibly endanger her. Eventually, after deliberating with her family, Starr decides to tell her story, through a statement and later an interview as an anonymous witness that was aired on national news. However, during the investigation, the focus shifts away from the death of Khalil and onto his background, specifically suspicions that Khalil sold drugs for the King Lords, one of Garden Heights’ major gangs.

 

Over the following weeks, Starr struggles to keep her identity as the witness a secret from her classmates and boyfriend who attends a mostly white private school, Williamson Prep, with her; her whole life, she has lived a double life at Williamson prep and in Garden Heights. At Williamson, Starr is curt and polite, cool-headed, and an amiable player on the girls’ basketball team. At home, Starr is rambunctious but clever, a best friend, sister, and cousin, and uses slang freely. Starr’s greatest fear is that her reputation at the elitist high school will be tarnished by her involvement with Khalil and she’ll be labeled as a “ghetto girl” from Garden Heights, who she‘s terrified her peers already consider her.

 

After a grand jury fails to indict the officer who killed Khalil, Garden Heights breaks into violent riots and chaos. Starr is thrown into navigating volatile situations both at home, where her family is in danger and at school, where Starr’s insensitive classmates are disregarding the shooting, some even going far as to say “it was bound to happen anyway.”

 

Together with support from her community, Starr begins to fight back against the ruling, publicly sharing her experiences/memories of Khalil and advocating for justice. Through her efforts and perseverance, Starr becomes the center of Garden Heights’ campaign against racial discrimination, overcoming her initial fear of being known as a girl from the Garden.

 

The book ends with Starr pledging to never give up in her relentless pursuit for equality. While the system may have failed Khalil and other victims of prejudiced shootings, she is hopeful for a future where justice will not have to be earned or fought for, but given.                                                                                                                                                       

 

PERSONAL INSIGHT:

 

After its publication two years ago and the acclaim surrounding The Hate U Give, I knew I had to read it. The Hate U Give is arguably the best novel I have ever read. Thomas’s writing is so raw and real and I could not put the book down. The author paints Starr’s fractured identity and the crisis surrounding Khalil so realistically and while reading, I felt as if I was observing the events unfold firsthand. The reader interacts with Starr on a deeply personal level and gains immense insight on what different cultures and regions experience daily. The language used by Thomas adds a final layer of liveliness and eerie realism that make it difficult to separate Starr’s experiences from the world’s current-day horrors. The novel is an incredibly compelling read not only for its style but also for the content. In today’s society where injustice and prejudice prevail, it’s increasingly important that novels such as THUG shine a light on how to overcome (racial) adversity on an individual and larger scale. The novel tells the importance of speaking out against discrimination, referencing the Black Lives Matter movement as well as other acts of activism amidst chaos and inequality. The core messages in the novel teach young people, especially girls, how to empower themselves and be a strong voice for change in their community and society, which I believe are integral in shaping our generation into vectors for a positive change in the world.

 

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March Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas