Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
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I actually first read this two years ago. My friend introduced me to this life-changing book when I was struggling to decide what books to study for my dissertation. I had no idea what I was in for. I went into this book blind.
And this book very much tilted the axis that my world spins on.
There are some books that you read and you know they’re going to change the literary landscape. It will go down in history as a classic and be read for years to come. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a prime example. Not just because of the social and political issues she carefully articulates throughout each page. But also because of the beautiful representation of Black American culture – Black culture in general.
That’s why I love this book.
Maverick and Lisa’s relationship was everything to me and even, just the community’s love for each other. The way they support one another. Small things like calling to check on each other during times of trouble. It was heart-warming and tender. I think it helped to create the light, this book needed exploring police brutality and racism.
Layered within this book is an in-depth focus on ‘double consciousness’. I saw myself in Starr from when she describes herself as having to code switch depending on whether she was back home in her community or attending the predominantly white school she went to. In particular, it was her coming to terms with the power of her voice. I know this is something that is explored often in Young Adult books but I don’t think it should ever change. More often than not, it speaks to the heart. It encourages young people to stand up for what they believe in.
“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.”
Angie Thomas’ discussion of police brutality, racism and microaggression wasn’t just her thoughts and feelings about everything that happens in America. It was activism. It was her way of showing readers that racism comes in a variety of different forms and we experience it every single day. Neither was she saying racism was only a Black community issue. It affects everyone. If you read this book and just thought ‘this was excellent storytelling’, you missed the entire plot.
The layering of Tupac throughout this book…wow. The discussion Starr and Maverick have about institutional racism and how it’s woven into society…it was done in such a clear but profound way. If there was any way to explain racism to a young person…that was it.
That last chapter of the book…if you’ve read it, shows how Angie Thomas sharply brings you out of the story to remind you that what you’ve read about isn’t just fiction. It’s real. And it’s been happening for decades.
This is a book that I hope won’t have the same impact it has now in the future. I hope things would have changed by then.
If you haven’t read this book, please do. What are you waiting for? It’s guaranteed to blow you away.
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