The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is one of those books you must read. It’s a powerful story that is completely relevant to our times.
I’m sure you have at least heard of The Hate U Give—it’s a bestseller, won a ton of awards and there’s a film version. The novel, which came out in 2017, focuses on a young black woman who witnesses her friend murdered by a police officer. And as much as we hoped that society would have changed and progressed since then, the story is still quite relevant, especially in light of the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others.
Part of me is wondering why it took me so long to read it. Yes, the novel is YA and I don’t tend to read that genre. But I know the main reason is I was afraid it would be too hard of a read because we see stories like this in the news and it’s heartbreaking every time. I know realize that reasoning is white privilege, where I can turn on and off what I want to consume. Going forward, I won’t shy away from a story just because I think it will be a tough read; if anything, that is all the more reason to read it.
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.
We first meet Starr when she’s feeling uncomfortable at a party with other neighborhood kids. She goes to a prep school about 45 minutes away and so people only know her as “Big Mav’s” daughter who works at her father’s store. Starr is split between her neighborhood and school life—she never really feels like she’s being 100% authentic at either. At the party, she runs into her longtime friend Khalil who eventually takes her on the fateful drive where he is murdered. And it changes Starr’s life forever.
This isn’t Starr’s first friend to be murdered—a childhood friend was killed in a drive-by shooting. That’s a ton of loss and grief at such a young age. And Starr has trouble processing it all at times. But she is forced to grow up quick, especially when she has to testify and then use her voice in a different way. She experiences a ton of growth and by the end of the story, she is no longer just known as the girl who works at her father’s store.
I could go on and on about how this is a good story. Because it is. It’s impactful, upsetting, but in the end, inspiring. Fiction is such a powerful medium. It truly can get to people where other outlets can’t reach them. Spending several hours with a fictional protagonist, reading their every thoughts and fears, puts you in someone’s else’s position. This story especially shows the pain that black people deal with on a constant basis. But it also shows their strength and how they come together as a community.
This country has a sickness. And right now, people are taking to the streets to fight for racial justice. Black Lives Matter.
If you’re wondering what you can do, reading books like this one and An American Marriage is a great place to start. If you’re looking to donate, this New Yorker article lists all the ways to support black lives and communities of color.
Check out my book club questions here for The Hate U Give.