The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
Publication Date: February 21, 2017
Bang Bang Rating: 1/4
Starr leads a double life. In one life she’s a sixteen year old who lives in a gang/drug infested neighborhood with her mother, her ex-con father, her younger brother, and sometimes her older brother with whom she shares a father. In her other life she’s a high school junior at Williamson Academy, a predominately White school, with a White boyfriend, an Asian friend, and a White friend. Starr struggles with her identity between her two worlds especially after her best friend, who was Black, was shot and killed by a White police officer.
The incident happens quite early in the book which I believe was a brilliant idea because it causes the reader to adopt assumptions about Khalil, the boy who was killed. As the story progresses we learn more about Khalil and his circumstances thus creating the conversation about race, poverty, and privilege. Many of us have prejudices about people who sell drugs or are gang members and Thomas sheds a light and may cause some readers to reevaluate the way they think the next time an unarmed Black youth is shot.
One of the reasons why this story is good is because Starr is relatable to many people, not just Blacks. Starr struggles with the way she changes her behavior when she’s among certain people. In her circumstance, she changes the way she speaks and she doesn’t discuss her home life around her school friends and she gets persecuted by her “sister” because she doesn’t act Black enough. I think lots of people struggle with this in their workplace or perhaps they have family with different political/religious beliefs from their friends, etc. Starr shares her inner monologue and her rationality which a lot of other book characters don’t do and I think this enhances the reading experience because we get to understand the choices she’s making.
Every character was essential to the plot including the seven year old little brother to the grandmothers but I think the stand out, other than Starr, was Starr’s father. Marv had the most significant character arc. He was sent to jail for gang activity and he continues to have a gang mentality while caring for his family. Although his actions are terrible most of the time you can see why he thinks a certain way because Thomas explains his logic quite well.
As someone who didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like Starr’s or knows someone who was shot by a police officer or who has never been in a protest, I think this book gave me a glimpse into the Trayvon Martin incident. Overall, I thought The Hate U Give was insightful and honest. My only issue was the dialogue among the characters. There were several pages and situations of conversations about The Fresh Prince and cereal and other trivial teenage things that really didn’t impact the plot. I know Thomas was showcasing Starr’s interactions among her different groups of friends but there were too many, they were too long, and I wish they could have been a bit deeper. I’m not trying to say they had to talk like John Green characters but I think it dragged down the book and made it longer than it needed to be. I think length is important because if I try to give this book to my Black or Hispanic reluctant readers, they’ll take one look at this 450 page book and say no thanks.