Book club questions for The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas takes a closer look at this moving story and its relevancy to our current times. There will be spoilers so for more context about the story, check out my spoiler-free review.
The Hate U Give was published in 2017, which almost feels like a different world, right? But when you think about how so little has changed in regards to police brutality and the murder of Black Americans across the country, it’s as if the years all bend into one.
But 2020 is different. People are going to the streets to fight for racial justice. Maybe this year is finally the time where things change. Everyone has a role to play. And reading and learning is a key part of that.
As you discuss these questions related to the story, make sure and connect them to what’s happening to our society right now. This might be a fictional story but it rings very true to life.
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Book club questions for The Hate U Give
- We first meet Starr when she’s attending a party in her neighborhood. She doesn’t quite feel like she fits in as she attends school 45 minutes away. Let’s first talk about how Starr is split into two worlds.
- Tupac said that Thug Life stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone.” Khalil says, “Meaning what society give us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out.” Let’s talk about this line from Tupac, which is said throughout the novel. Why do you think it was important for the novel to be titled The Hate U Give?
- Khalil is murdered by the police officer. And when Starr goes to check on him, the police officer points the same gun that killed Khalil right at her. What were you thinking as you read this scene?
- This isn’t Starr’s first friend murdered. Her friend Natasha was killed in a drive-by shooting when they were children. That’s a ton of loss for someone, especially at a young age. Let’s discuss this.
- While still grieving and numb, Starr still has to go back to school. But she decides not to tell her friends or boyfriend about what happened. Why do you think she felt this way and couldn’t initially talk to her boyfriend or friends about Khalil?
- The police and media try to paint Khalil as a drug dealer/gangbanger, in other words, trying to find some kind of justification for his murder. But if there were cellphone footage of Khalil’s murder, they would see he was completely innocent and that the police officer murdered him. Let’s talk about how cellphone videos are helping to bring justice.
- Starr’s boyfriend Chris is white and because of that it seems Starr doesn’t think they’ll have much of a future, especially since she’s worried her dad will be upset. But Chris continues to show up for her time and time again. Let’s talk about their relationship.
- Starr grows quite a bit in this story and she learns to stand up for herself more. She finally admits that her friend Hailey is selfish and racist. So she finally cuts ties with her. Let’s discuss that development for Starr.
- Starr testifies in the case but the jury finds the police officer innocent, which results in the anguish of the community. They take to the streets to protest and some riot. And Starr finally finds her voice. Let’s talk about this scene.
- What did you think about the ending? What are some of the key takeaways from the story for you?
- Have you watched the movie version yet?
- Let’s talk about how this story is so relevant to this movement that’s happening right now in the U.S. What role can we all play in the fight for racial justice and equality?
Other book recommendations
Hope you enjoyed book club questions for The Hate U Give!
And here are some more fiction recommendations along with links to book club questions.
Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living, with her confidence-driven brand, showing other women how to do the same. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night, walking the aisles of their local high-end supermarket. The store’s security guard, seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.
With empathy and piercing social commentary, Such a Fun Age explores the stickiness of transactional relationships, what it means to make someone “family,” and the complicated reality of being a grown up. It is a searing debut for our times.
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn’t commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy’s time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy’s conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
This stirring love story is a profoundly insightful look into the hearts and minds of three people who are at once bound and separated by forces beyond their control. An American Marriage is a masterpiece of storytelling, an intimate look deep into the souls of people who must reckon with the past while moving forward—with hope and pain—into the future.