I’d heard that The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas was really good. I’d also heard something about a bestseller controversy that I paid just enough attention to to remind me that I should read this novel. When I finally picked it up, I wasn’t disappointed.
Starr Carter is sixteen years old. She is black and lives in a poor, segregated neighborhood that is challenged by drugs and gangs. Her parents don’t want to leave the neighborhood, but they want the best for their kids. So they send Starr and her brother to the rich, white school in a different neighborhood. The challenges of Starr navigating the differences between her school and her neighborhood is already interesting enough, but Starr also has a white boyfriend, Chris. Her father would definitely disapprove, but she keeps it secret from him.
Then one night, Starr is in the car with an old childhood friend, Khalil, when they are pulled over. The cop ends up shooting and killing her old friend before her eyes. Suddenly, Starr is dealing with grief over the tragic loss of her friend, anger at the policeman who took his life, fear for her life from the police if she talks about what happened that night, and anxiety about what people at her school will think. In fact, she even denies she knows Khalil at first when she goes back to school.
After the killing, protests and riots break out in Starr’s neighborhood, exponentially increasing the danger there for her and her family. Starr must process everything that’s happening, decide what role she wants to play, and be able to live with herself in the end.
I thought this book was incredibly sad and well-written. I was especially impressed by the many subtle grey areas that are sometimes difficult for young adult books to explore in a thorough and satisfying way. Quite often there weren’t clearly good and bad characters, but misunderstandings, some prejudices, and some survival mechanisms all working together within a person to make them who they are. With this story, Thomas explores the shootings of unarmed black men, gang violence, drugs, interracial relationships, prejudice, and much more. I would recommend it as a fascinating story and an important, modern discussion of race in the United States.
You can read all of my reviews on my blog.