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 always get really nervous to read a book that has so much hype around it. I prefer to either read it directly after it comes out or wayyyyyy after the hype has died down around. I just don't want other peoples thought and opinions about it in my head, you know?
In the case of The Hate U Give, I definitely waited to read it but I hope the hype around it never dies down. This was an incredibly moving book that gives a voice to the truth of what life is often like for Black teens in America. As a white Canadian, I often forget (or don't pay attention to) what is happening in cities just south of me. And that's not ok. Sitting silently by while a group of people -- whether they are a different ethnicity, race, or religion -- are treated badly is not ok.
The Hate U Give is a book that I will be recommending to many, many people because of what a well-written reminder it is of how different the world can be for some people. There are so many reasons to love this book:
My Stomach was Clenched the Entire Time:
This isn't just a story about police brutality; it's a story of gang violence, drug use, impoverished communities, and teens who are trapped. The number of times violence occurs in the books is terrifying, especially because I could never predict when it would happen. This isn't a novel set in a dystopian future where the hero is fighting to survive in a new world order -- it's happening here and now and the strength of these characters is amazing to read. Threats to Starr were coming from so many directions, and it really made me realize just how little I understand about the world that Thomas is writing about. I was humbling and pretty scary.
Incredibly Sad, Honest, and Beautiful:
I was actually sad that I was able to laugh at moments in this book in between moments of stress and fear. When Starr and her family are making fun of her White boyfriend Chris, I was honestly laughing out loud at the dialogue. It was hilarious. And then there are the moments -- like when Starr and her brothers watch Big Mav be patted down by cops -- that are terrifying because we just don't know what's going to happen. My heart was racing wondering if they would beat him up or shoot him as a warning to Starr. This is not even including when Khalil is killed and we sit in horror with Starr as everything seems to slow down and the bullets hit him. Thinking about the book now, I still have nothing but admiration for the story that Thomas has given us. A story that is incredibly sad, incredibly honesty, and beautifully written.
It's A Story that Is Horrible but True, and Needs to be Told Again and Again:
The worst part about reading this book was that the entire time I kept thinking, "This is probably happening right now in a city near me." How many times have stories exactly like this been in the news? A Black boy is shot and killed by police officers and the officer is never found guilty. Again and again these stories are on the news, and it's honestly shocking how quickly it turns into "Drug Dealer Fatally Shot" or "Officer was at risk. He had no choice". It was hard to read this book, knowing that Thomas did not have to go very far to find inspiration for it. It's horrible that this happening and all I can do it share in some of Starr's final thoughts:
"...I think it'll change one day. How? I don't know. When? I definitely don't know. Why? Because there will always be someone ready to fight" (p.443)
Like Starr, like Thomas, I cling to the hope that this systemic racism will stop being such a deep-rooted problem in society. There is absolutely no reason that anyone should fear driving home at night because of the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, or their religion. Thank God there will always be people who will stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, but hopefully the day will come when that advocacy is no longer needed.
Read this book. You will not regret it.
FINAL RATING: 5/5
Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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