All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

on September 27, 2017

The Hate U Give
Angie Thomas
Walker Books
2017, 438p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

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.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

There are two ways I go after finishing a book: I either write the review right away, sometimes because it’s due the next day or because I want to get it done quickly before I forget anything, or simply because I feel like getting it done. The other way is that I mull it over for a while, thinking about things that I enjoyed, or found thought provoking or that affected me. Sometimes a book makes me angry and I want to see if that dissipates after a few days. Sometimes I adore it and I want to see if that fades or if it lasts.

When I finished this one, it was definitely a book to mull over. To think about, to allow the themes and messages to wash over you. It’s an important book, published on the crest of a very difficult time. It has been well hyped in the online book blogging world and although I purchased it a few months ago, I didn’t pick it up until my participation in the The Reading Quest Challenge. It was my “free choice” book and I think the only contemporary novel I chose with no fantasy or sci-fi elements.

Starr is a 16yo African American girl living with her somewhat complicated family in a dangerous neighbourhood. Her mother is a nurse and her father runs a convenience store in the heart of the neighbourhood but both have scrimped and saved to send Starr and her siblings to a school in a different suburb where Starr is one of the only black students. She’s straddling two worlds – the lower socioeconomic one where she lives, where her parents work, where there are rival gangs who control territory, where her house is surrounded by a fence and where they huddle in a room with no exterior walls whenever the streets start to fire up. And then there’s the Starr at school, who talks a different way, who plays a different role.

Starr’s experience of her black unarmed friend being shot dead by a cop during a “routine traffic stop” mirrors any number of real life scenarios. A quick google will probably turn up a dozen from the past few years. At first her parents attempt to protect her, to hide the fact that she was there and Starr finds it difficult to talk about too, even with people from her neighbourhood. But then she makes a brave decision to speak out, to attempt to get justice for Khalil and anonymity won’t last forever. As the area becomes more and more dangerous with gang warfare and protests against the police, Starr’s parents have to make a painful choice.

I’m not black, or even American so I’m not going to weigh in on the racial divide. There are far better informed and relevant people than me who have plenty of interesting and informative things to offer. But for someone who is curious about the issues and is interested in what it might be like to experience some of this, this book feels like a great portrayal of life in a poorer neighbourhood rife with issues. Starr’s father was a former gang member who was able to do what’s almost impossible – buy his freedom out of the gang to ‘go straight’ and lead a relatively normal life. The character of Starr’s father is amazing and I absolutely loved the talks that he and Starr had about life. He has great insights and a really snappy delivery. While he and Starr’s mother obviously want the best for their children, busting their asses to send them to a good school in a nearby suburb, he also wants to stay ‘within’ their neighbourhood, to have them understand where they come from. I loved Starr’s whole family and they felt very genuine in their relationships with each other and also with their surroundings. The portrayal of life in their area is frank – the good (camaraderie, close knit groups, a community that comes together and does everything they can to assist in times of need) and the bad (gangs, violence, drugs, danger).

What happens to Khalil is something that’s made the news any number of times and the ways in which spin is introduced is familiar too: oh he was a gang banger I’m sure, he was probably a drug dealer, guy was reaching for a gun, wasn’t doing what he was told, why was he even out in the night anyway, etc etc. It goes on, the excuses and justification for the use of excessive force and Starr is forced to listen to people talk about what happened when they weren’t there and she was. There’s an inherent distrust of the police already and the way in which she goes in to making her statement and also speaking out, giving her side of the story has a sort of fatalistic air to it. I think deep down she knows that there won’t be justice in the way that the neighbourhood demands and that the fallout will be brutal.

This is a brutal, raw, honest, powerful story that left a mark on me. Starr’s struggle with her identity and her grief leaped off the page. But it epitomises more than just Starr’s struggle – it’s also the struggle against a vicious cycle of poverty where crime and pressure to join gang activity feel like the only way out. The struggle for education, for college opportunities in the hope of a better future, in fitting in with different people, in learning not to ignore casual racism, especially when it comes from someone who is supposed to be your friend. Speaking up and speaking out. But it’s also about not forgetting where you came from and all that made you who you are.

This book is amazing – I’d recommend it to anyone.

9/10

Book #153 of 2017

 

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One response to “Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

  1. […] The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Not much I can say about this book that than if you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for? Go, read it now! […]

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