The Hate U Give is a contemporary young adult novel by Angie Thomas that will break your heart. It’s clear from the onset that this book isn’t solely for a young audience, that it will appeal to all ages. It’s a story of vital and increasing importance, I read it just before the murder of Ahmaud Arbery when it felt as though the Black Lives Matter Movement was quiet from this side of the planet. It’s heart wrecking to think that this story is so pertinent to the times we live in. This is a poignant story set at the heart of the Black Lives Matter Movement, one that conveys the injustice of structural racism in police systems. Star, the young protagonist has just witnessed the murder of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. She feels she stands out as a black girl in her predominantly white school, doesn’t think she fits in with her black peers in her hood, and she’s struggling with the complexities of a mixed race relationship.
When I was younger I used to becry writers appearing to talk down to teens, Thomas definitely does not do this. She has created a brilliant, sharp protagonist with a powerful voice dealing with a humongously complex situation in Khalil’s murder. She doesn’t come off as the type of ‘nobody understands me’ teen, the character has undergone a trauma which no one will understand and she treats it carefully. Thomas isn’t reductive with any part of the narrative or Starr’s personality. She deftly deals with the fact that Khalil’s murder isn’t the only problem Starr has to face, though it’s a huge struggle for her. It shows how her struggles with her identity and her relationships are affected, how they affect her mental health and how Kahlil’s murder in turn affect them. I thought it was brilliantly handled.
The plot is probably what draws most people to the book. Thomas brings the Black Lives Matter Movement to the fore of the novel. A young black boy being shot by police officers while his friend is the only witness. The media’s reaction to it. How people treat the witness. The dichotomy between black and white responses to the situation. The labelling of Khalil as a thug uncritically. It’s a dramatic and critical response to a harsh situation. One that seems to be neverendingly pertinent. It’s such an important dialogue to be having not only with teenagers but amongst adults too – how to spot structural and internalised racism. It serves as a stiff reminder that we need to actively examine race within power structures.
Starr’s family relationship too is something to be lauded. I thoroughly enjoyed her relationship with her mam. When it’s so easy to fall into the trope of the hurt teenager taking it out on her parents, Thomas gives us the antidote. It made my heart so warm to read a loving and close relationship between mother and daughter. I feel almost as if it were a heartfelt personal letter to a caring mother. It’s exceptional to see such a mature outlook in a young adult novel, the rarity of that is unbelievable. Which bolsters the point that she doesn’t treat her character’s personality in a reductive manner. I personally think it’s a great didactic and something a lot more writers should attempt – the whole having teens see their parents as humans and being empathetic towards them.
TLDR: you need to read this regardless of age and race it’s very important. Black Lives Matter is still an important movement the murder of Ahmaud Arbery is further proof of it. This is a great book to understand why it’s important if you don’t already – or if you’re going to argue that all lives matter.