Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Balzer & Bray / Harperteen
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Hardcover, 444 Pages
Published February 2017
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
I first heard of this book due to all of the hype it was getting, from being the #1 bestseller to being talked about/recommended by just about everybody on Twitter. To be entirely honest, I was a bit nervous at first, because my dad has been a detective and a police officer since before I was even born -- which equals many, many years of his time -- and I am constantly proud of him and the work he does, so I was worried that I would be reading a book that basically slammed every single accomplishment he's ever had. But boy, was I wrong. Angie Thomas isn't writing an anti-police book that's just putting blame and shame on people -- she's writing a book that works to give everyone the chance to see the entire story from the perspective of the victim, and just how many things get lost in translation when the media takes these stories to the world. And in my opinion, she did that brilliantly.
There were a lot of things that I really enjoyed about this book. For starters, the story is very complex, with tons of characters, stories, and backstories to all pay attention to. But paying attention was no problem for me, because this book had me hooked from start to finish. I really liked Starr's character, because she's very outspoken and funny at times, with tons of quips to keep you laughing. But she's also strong and determined when she needs to be, as well as broken down and letting her emotions flow when the situation calls for that as well. I found it very easy to get into Starr's head and see the whole situation from her point of view as both an outsider (when she's at school) and an insider (when she's at home), which was a very unique situation for her to be in. Angie Thomas's writing is so flawless that she makes the story so gripping and easy to follow that you'll struggle to put it down when you have other things to do -- such as, uh, you know...lectures and exams and finals and getting decent hours of sleep. (*guilty face*)
I also think it was very important -- at least, it was to me -- that Starr had an uncle in the police department. Angie Thomas was able to depict the aspect of the argument that I always try to bring up -- that of course not all cops are evil, the same way that not all minorities are criminals. Starr's uncle was an important character to me because he represented the idea that even people that work for a system can be mature enough to recognize when something it is doing is wrong -- and they're also wise enough to draw a distinguishing line of separation between them and the institution in those cases.
It was also interesting to see how Starr juggled her "double life," so to speak -- feeling that she had to act prim and proper in her private school, less of herself and more of putting on a persona, and also having to blend in more with her friends from home when she was interacting in those situations. I feel that constantly having to choose which persona to put forward -- and having trouble blending them, when it came to her friends from school and also dating Chris -- adds a more intricate detail to her complex story, which doesn't help her feel any less lost or confused after the entire Khalil situation.
I knew the media skewed stories. That wasn't a secret by any stretch, and if it's a secret to you, then you should probably start paying attention to things more. But this book gave me a story about the media running wild from the point of view that I have had no experience with before, which made it all the more eye-opening and important to me. Through Khalil's story, I learned a lot about what life is like for the victim, the victim's family, and everyone else in their life and community that's involved.
This book covered everything. The death of an unarmed black teenager, riots, protests, the feelings of the victims, what it's like to grow up in less fortunate neighborhoods, feeling out of place in a privleleged world, etc. The Hate U Give covers it all and gives readers the full scope of a point of view that they may not have real-world experience with. It even addresses the racist jokes that kids make every day -- such as the ones Starr's friend Hailey repeatedly makes -- without even realizing they're doing so, or realizing they're doing so and feeling that it isn't that big of a deal. She covers all of the bases here, people. This book is basically your #1 tool for reevaluating how you talk and interact with others, how you handle those who come from different backgrounds from you, and how to not immediately soak up whatever it is the media tries to tell you right away, without knowing all of the facts.
Starr's bravery was a huge factor for me when it came to rating this book five stars, especially when she knew the trouble she could get in for using her voice. Regardless of the consequences, Starr sets out to do the right thing, because she owes it to Khalil and all of those who have been in situations similar to hers and his, and she knows that your voice is always your most powerful weapon -- more powerful than tear gas and flaming rags could ever be.
Overall, I ended up really enjoying The Hate U Give. I enjoyed it a lot more than I ever expected to, and I'd definitely recommend it to everybody. No matter what background you're from, what you've previously heard, or where you lie on the spectrum on the police brutality issue, The Hate U Give is an important work of this generation that everybody needs to read. It'll open your eyes to our current social and political climate in ways you never could've imagined.
So if this book isn't on your TBR yet, I definitely recommend putting it there! I first heard about this book through all of the other amazing bloggers that were recommending it, and now I'm doing the same to all of you!