Nearly twenty years ago, Jacqueline Woodson first tackled the same subject matter as depicted in The Hate U Give (2017) in her typically poetic and poignant style in the novel If You Come Softly (1998). It is a story of first love, an interracial one between fifteen-year-old Jeremiah and Ellie who meet at their private school. They have to deal with how society treats them because of their relationship. In the end, this modern day Romeo and Juliet comes to an abrupt end when Jeremiah is fatally shot by police–despite his privileged background. Woodson continues these characters’ story with Behind You (2004) which focuses on the impact of Jeremiah’s death on those who loved him as they struggle to move on. In between these two publications, Woodson also pens Hush (2002), a novel that showcases a grieving family living in the aftermath of a black cop’s choice to break from “the blue wall of silence” after witnessing the wrongful shooting of an unarmed black teen at the hands of his white colleagues. While well-received–as is typical of many of Woodson’s works–these novels did not garner as much word-of-mouth praise and conversation as The Hate U Give has generated–and very much deserves. Elements of each of these three novels are reflected in The Hate U Give which I could not put down and was a surprisingly quick read at 464 pages.
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