This was the book to read in 2017, and I have to admit I kept putting off reading it. I was hesitant. First the reviews this book got were ridiculously positive, absolute rave reviews at every corner....
I thought no way can a book live up to this level of hype. Second of all, a novel discussing the Black Lives Matter Movement is in the genre of YA? I thought there is no way in hell a YA novel can properly capture the intricacy, emotions, and complexity of this topic. I assumed YA wouldn't be able to do this movement justice (I assumed wrong). And lastly just personally I knew a book about a black sixteen year old being shot by a cop was going to leave me emotionally drained, heart broken, and furious with the injustice in the world. Sometimes it is hard to force yourself to read those uncomfortable books but I think you have to in the end because its those uncomfortable books that actually transform you into a better and more understanding person.
The Hate U Give is an amazing debut by Angie Thomas, this woman can write! The story follows our black protagonist Starr as she sees her childhood friend Khalil get shot by a white police officer. This happens pretty early on in the novel so the majority of this book is about the aftermath; about Starr finding her voice and lending hers to her friend that was wrongfully gunned down by a cop.
I remember the first chapter Starr talks about her Dad having "the talk" with her when she was just a toddler. As a typical middle class white girl I thought oh this is 'stranger danger' conversation or the 'birds and the bees' type family discussion. NOPE, It was what to do when a cop stops you: No sudden movements, do everything they say, keep your hands where they can see them. A discussion that would never even have crossed my parents mind as middle class white people living in the suburbs. Angie Thomas does such an amazing job giving us, the readers, that feeling of unease and frankly fear towards an institution that is suppose to be there to protect us. You suddenly become very aware that behind the gun and badge is an individual with flaws and unknown bigotry. It reminded me of the movie GET OUT by Jordan Peele because he also made every white person in the audience suddenly feel extremely frightened when a cop car came on the scene. Which is not something white people are ingrained to feel.
Will you feel White guilt when reading this novel? NOPE. Angie Thomas doesn't pit races against each other, or police against civilians. This book doesn't come from a place of hate. It comes from a place of open discussion. The fact one of her friends is white and completely ignorant to Starr's plight is just an example of those that don't want to venture out their privilege to be made uncomfortable by poverty. While other's like Starr's white boyfriend is desperate to be educated on everything important in his girlfriends life. Their are unfair police officers, and then their's Starr's Uncle who is a black police officer. The entire book is just Angie Thomas showing both sides of a coin. She shows the good in the police and the bad, the good in the impoverished community and the bad, the good in privileged white people and the bad. I appreciated the balance even though I just wanted Starr to start hitting the gym go through a Terminator 2 Sarah Connor transformation and murder everyone!
I am so glad I finally picked up this novel. It is such well thought out debut that should be added to school curriculum across the nation! As much as I love George Orwell and Margaret Atwood I think this book is much more relevant in today's political climate. Angie Thomas shattered my stereotypes on YA novels, and I can't believe I ever doubted this novel would be anything but amazing. Highly highly recommend. I'm not kidding when I say this book should be mandatory reading. If you haven't read it, sit down, grab some tissues, and tuck into this amazing story.