When I try to start this review, I am cowed at the prospect of it. What do I, a mid-30s white woman have to say about Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, the story of Starr Carter, a sixteen year old young black woman growing up in the ghetto, who is a witness to the murder of not one, but two of her friends? What do I have to say about her experience, or about the experience of everyone in this book, so far removed from my life? I’m not sure, but I have to start somewhere.
I heard about this book from fellow Cannonballers – I am one of the social media managers and our Slack was lit up with comments about it. I tried to get it at the library in any format, audio or book, and was staggered the the waitlist. Not one to wait, I reupped my Audible subscription just for it. And I am so glad I did.
For me, audio was necessary to truly immerse myself in this novel. It is sometimes hard for me to “hear” characters in my head when I am reading, especially if their conversational styles very different from my own. Bahni Turpin as the narrator does a phenomenal job giving each character a distinct voice. I really felt like I knew each of them. And even more remarkable, she had to do different voices for the same characters. Our narrator, Starr, spends her time in two worlds, Garden Heights, and an affluent area 45 minutes away where she attends school as one of the few black students. So, she goes between “Normal Starr, at Normal Williamson” and “Garden Heights” Starr. Her school friends know a little about her home life, but she is careful to keep things separate, somewhat for her own privacy, and really, as a measure of trying to fit in to a world that wants her to be something she is not: black, but not too black. Cool black, but not angry black. Or activist black.
When Khalil is shot dead at a traffic stop she is drawn into the local and later national arena as she is the only witness able to speak up and speak out on Khalil’s behalf. There are consequences on both sides for her. Speaking out brings her Garden Heights and Williamson worlds together, and also can cause trouble at home with the worst drug dealer in her neighborhood, who she knows tried (and failed) to recruit Khalil into his gang.
And…that this is what a sixteen year old girl in America is worried about just makes me want to cry. And I did cry, while listening to this book. This book will take you on the best/worst roller coaster of emotion. Thomas is outstanding at crafting characters and to see Starr go from dealing with literal life and death, but also talk about her love for Fresh Prince, and her annoying little brother, will take your breath away. For her, wrestling with something of this magnitude is just part of her life being young and black in America. It is almost mundane.
This was a great book. I saw that a school in Texas banned it and that is just about what I expect and is straight up garbage, but par for the course. What have I learned from this book that I didn’t already know? Nothing. Everything. I certainly didn’t know about Tupac’s activism, and his explanation for “Thug Life.” The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody. And I am going to suggest this book to everyone I know. So, in that, I’m using my voice. If I can make a little difference in my corner of the world, well, then that’s something.