Angie Thomas’ bestselling debut novel became a must read the second I heard about it! A book inspired by Tupac Shakur and #BlackLivesMatter, which explores racism and police brutality ? I’m in!
The book follows the story of Starr Cater, a 16 year old girl who seems to be living in two different worlds. One being her posh high school filled with rich kids. And the other being her poor neighbourhood filled with poverty, violence and crime. Starr tries to strike a balance when navigating both worlds, but this becomes increasingly difficult when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend Khalil.
The Hate U Give shows the potential YA novels have to deal with real-world issues in a sophisticated and honest way. Thomas recognises this potential, runs with it and excels! This coming of age tale pulls the curtain back on many of the harsh realties that black children have to deal with. And much of what Starr feels and experiences is shaped purely by the colour of her skin. Such as her desire to supress valid emotions in order to avoid being labelled ‘angry,’ ‘loud’ or ‘ghetto’. Or even having to be sat down for ‘the talk’ at the tender age of 12, no not the one about the birds and the bees. The one where parents coach their children on how to interact with the police, so that they can hopefully make it home alive. Thomas’ depiction of Starr and her experiences as an African American are bold and truthful, it’s not all Hip Hop, dance crazes and Brazilian butt lifts. As Starr herself says;
Its dope to be black until its hard to be black
This book also deals heavily with the idea of activism, and raises many questions about dealing with injustice. As the controversy surrounding Pepsi’s recent advert has highlighted, there are right and wrong ways to speak out about social and political issues. Starr is plagued with confusion and self-doubt in the beginning of this story, but works towards solidifying her identify as both an activist and a young black woman. All while mourning the death of her beloved friend, which is an amazing process to read about!
Thomas has a raw writing style reminiscent of many of the ‘Urban fiction’ stories I’ve come across on online platforms such as Wattpad. This book is filled with many light-hearted moments with pop culture references, from Drake and The Fresh Prince of Bel air ,and from Harry Potter to the infamous ‘Black Twitter’. While it may not be the case for everyone that reads this book, I could relate to some of the character’s interests and experiences. They seemed like people I could come across in real life and that fact made my empathy for them run deep. These characters are complex and dynamic, their bold personalities fly off the page and even the most seemingly predictable and stereotypical characters ending up surprising you.
The most important thing about Angie Thomas’ writing is that it made me feel, which is what I anticipate whenever I pick up a book. The Hate U Give made me joyful and tearful. It made me laugh and it made me feel deep anger and frustration. But most importantly, it made me proud. Proud of the individuals behind movements like Black Lives Matter, that band together in the face of adversity and speak up for what is right!
The Hate U Give gets 5 stars from me as I honestly don’t think it could be improved. I highly recommend this book to anyone that struggles to understand the sentiments behind the Black Lives Matter movement. But if you simply want to be entertained by a well written, gripping and emotive story, this is also the book for you!