WOW. I’ve seen so much talk about this book and I was fearful that it wouldn’t live up to the hype but how wrong I was to worry. The Hate U Give is absolutely astounding and is one of the best debut novels I’ve read in a long time. This is such a great book about the teen experience in America and covers an extremely wide range of topics – the black lives matter movement, police brutality, racism, activism, gang violence, drug abuse, interracial dating, consent, infidelity, relationship violence, blended families, the duality between the hood and suburban life, the list goes on and on.
The story starts with Starr witnessing the shooting of a childhood friend, Khalil, who was a drug dealer and a little bit of a THUG. The book challenges the reader’s perception of the “thugs” that we hear about every day in the media and reminds us that most are unarmed victims in these police shootings. It was startlingly honest about the way in which gangs can be so pervasive in disenfranchised communities, and how often young men just trying to survive find themselves trapped time and time again with little choice if they want to keep food on the table.
“I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.”
Many of the characters in the book are morally grey, most were simply good people who maybe do some very bad things. Here’s the thing though, just because a person does some bad things, does that mean they’re all bad, rotten to the core? Does that mean that their lives matter any less than anyone else’s? Is there hope for redemption, for an escape from the suffocating grasp of a society that has turned its back on the young people that need understanding and help the most? This is the crux of the dialogue that The Hate U Give brings to the table and it is unflinching in its honesty.
I also appreciated that the book recognized that there is still a great deal of prejudice against interracial relationships. People from the Garden pass judgment on Starr for having a white boyfriend, and his whiteness is brought up often. Starr feels the need to hide her relationship with him to avoid stepping on toes and it is so incredibly true to life and really showed that racism is a complex and multi-layered beast.
I loved The Hate U Give, it is both hopeful and heartbreaking and I haven’t sobbed so much reading a book in a long time. If you haven’t read the book yet I strongly urge you to do so, it is a timely story about the racial tension that still seethes under the surface in a post-civil rights America.
Warnings: violence, racism, domestic abuse