I know I’m a little late to the program with this one as I’ve been hearing people gush about this book for quite a while already — and rightly so! I just finished it and what an amazing story! Though The Hate U Give is marketed as a Young Adult book, I feel that this inspiring book that should be on everyone’s TBR list — regardless of age, gender or race.
The blurb is as follows:
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. 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.
The story revolves around and is told from the point of view of Star Carter, a 16 year old black girl who is trying to live in two different worlds: one being Garden Heights, the all black crime-ridden neighborhood where she lives and grew up in — and the other being Williamson Prep, the predominately white upper middle-class high school to which her parents send her and her two brothers.
While at school, she carefully measures her behavior, limits her slang and generally portrays an easy-going attitude as she tries to fit in with her rich white schoolmates. She even has a white boyfriend, Chris, whose existence she’s not yet told her father about because she’s worried he’ll judge her for dating a boy who isn’t black.
Though it can be challenging at times, Staar is always careful to keep her two worlds separate.
Staar has a great relationship with her family and it’s evident that she loves them. Her mother works at the hospital and is an excellent role model of a strong, no-nonsense woman. Her father, a former gang member, is now a respected member of the community having left his gang life behind and now works hard to provide for his children and be a positive role model for them. He owns the neighborhood grocery store at which Staar helps out from time to time.
But things aren’t easy for Staar and her family. She lives in a neighborhood where drive-by shootings, drug lords, gang leaders, and turf wars are a part of everyday life.
But one night her world is shattered when she and her childhood best friend Khalil are pulled over by a policeman for a routine traffic stop. The officer pulls Khalil out of the car and, even though Khalil was unarmed and made no threatening moves toward the officer, the policeman shoots him in the back three times, killing him.
So Staar ends up being the only witness to what actually happened — and her life and the life of those around her entirely change as a result. Though traumatized and enraged, Staar is faced with a choice: stay silent or accept who she truly is in order to obtain justice for Khalil.
Now I will say that the scene of Khalil’s murder is horrifying and gut-wrenching, and regretfully, not uncommon, as many of us have seen on the news far too often in recent times. Still, that didn’t make it this part of the book any easier — or less heartbreaking — to read.
The young man’s funeral was equally heart-hurting, as we saw firsthand how destroyed his family and friends were. Instead of reading a byline in a newspaper or hearing a brief clip on the television, we are fully immersed in the situation in this story and are placed in the shoes of those who are directly involved. In this way, the story was so raw and so real that at times, I forgot that I was reading fiction.
The author did an excellent job of bringing this story to life, allowing us to empathize with everyone involved. We read about the challenging issues facing the black community in the news, but this novel brought them to life for the reader, allowing us to see the lives behind the new bylines. In this way, we can’t help but realize that things are often a lot more complicated and multilayered than portrayed by the media.
Still grieving Khalil’s death, Staar is put in an extremely tough position given that she’s the only witness to the incident. Though it may seem clear to an outsider of what the best course of action is for her to take, things are not always as easy and clear-cut as they may seem — and it’s uncertain how we would react or not react if we found ourselves in a similar situation.
Following the aftermath of the shooting, I felt the author did an excellent job of portraying the fear, confusion, rage, and mistrust that Staar experiences as she processes her friend’s brutal murder and through it all, tries to find herself and her voice in the middle of the fallout. But not only that, we see firsthand how such a violent, tragic and senseless loss can shake a community to its core.
Though the officer clearly was at fault here, I felt that the author didn’t demonize the police or place all of the blame on them. Yes, there are definitely some bad police officers out there, but there are also good ones.
In fact, Staar’s uncle was a police officer who, on more than one occasion, let her know that not all of the officers at his precinct are trigger-happy racists and that many of his fellow officers vehemently disagreed with the action of their corrupt colleague and those like him.
The Hate U Give is phenomenal. This is the brutally honest kind of book that will stay with you for a long time after having read it and perhaps may cause you to look at life differently after having read it. At the very least, it may cause us to question that which we’ve come to accept as “normal”. This was a gripping story that not only packed an emotional punch but was also an excellent fictional treatment of real-life racial issues facing America today.
Though Ms. Thomas openly treats the issue of police brutality, she also demonstrates in a very real way the day to day violence plaguing inner-city neighborhoods. This is a timely book whose importance cannot be overstated.
Though the book deals with heavy issues and is not always comfortable to read, there are plenty of light and fun parts as well — especially the often amusing scenes in which Staar interacts with her friends and family. While the book will make you cry, it will, in places, make you laugh with joy as well.
Throughout the book, the author weaves in themes of police brutality, racial profiling, hard choices, injustice, white privilege how young black men get pressured into dealing drugs, the challenges of living in gang-ridden neighborhoods, the everyday violence and danger that people living inner-city neighborhoods face — and does it with expert storytelling.
This is an honest and compelling book that I hope will be around and in people’s minds for many years to come. Definitely a 5-star read for me. Recommended!!!
You can check the The Hate U Give HERE