Review: The Hate U Give

Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right,” Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
444 pages
Genre: Young Adult, current affairs
Published by Balzer + Bray, 2017
Rating: 4. 5 out of 5 stars
Re-readability: I’ll come back to this one at some point.
Reviewed by Indiana
Spoiler-free review

I wish we didn’t need books like this. But we do, we really do.

If you haven’t yet heard of The Hate U Give than you probably haven’t stepped into a bookstore or library anytime in the last two years. This book won the Coretta Scott King Award and the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and was recently adapted for the big screen.

The story itself is well-written and captivating, but what’s also drawn people into this book is how relevant it is. It follows the story of Starr Carter, who lives in a run down black neighborhood but attends a private school where she’s one of just a few black students. One night, when she goes to a party with her childhood friends, things get out of hand. There are gunshots and she leaves with one of her former best friends, who offers to give her a ride home in his car. They get pulled over, close to Starr’s house.  Khalil, Starr’s friend, is killed in what started out as a traffic stop.

Starr is left to deal with not only her grief but also with all the social, political, and societal issues that go along with it. Thomas dives head first into the system of minority oppression that has permeated through our society for hundreds of years. As Khalil is proclaimed a drug dealer on television, Thomas gets into the complicated reasons why people deal drugs and join gangs. In the case of Khalil, his mother was an addict and was in debt so much to the drug dealers that the only way he could get her out of it was to work for them. It’s a heartbreaking cycle.

Starr also has to deal with protests, many of them against the white officer who shot Khalil. They often turn violent and don’t always seem like the answer to Starr, but as time goes on and she tells her side of the story on national television, things get even more heated on both sides. Starr struggles with how to best speak out, but nationally and closer to home, with the other students at her school who are either bigoted or just aren’t aware.

Thomas took a topic that we’ve been grappling with in the United States for years and talked about it from the best perspective: from a teenager. Someone who is growing and changing and willing to grow and change, like we all should be. Starr’s story is powerful and, as I said at the start of this review, I wish it were no longer relevant. But it is. With studies like this one found in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health and news stories that sound all too similar to Khalil’s popping up in our news feeds or neighborhoods frequently, The Hate U Give is more relevant than ever.

Although it’s categorized as a Young Adult book, I would recommend teens and adults alike read it.

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