{Review} THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas

O P E N I N G   H O O K:

The Hate U Give
  SHOULDN'T have come to this party.

I'm not even sure I belong at this party. That's not on some bougie shit, either. There are just some places where it's not enough to be me. Either version of me. Big D's spring break party is one of those places.

I squeeze through sweaty bodies and follow Kenya, her curls bouncing past her shoulders. A haze lingers over the room, smelling like weed, and music rattles the floor. Some rapper calls out for everybody to Nae-Nae, followed by a bunch of "Heys" as people launch into their own versions. Kenya holds up her cup and dances her way through the crowd. Between the headache from the loud-ass music and the nausea from the weed odor, I'll be amazed if I cross the room without spilling my drink.

(Page 3, US Hardcover Edition)

    "I knew the whole Khalil. That's who I've been speaking up for. I shouldn't deny any part of him. Not even at Williamson."


There is a reason  THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas has been getting so much buzz, a reason it's already being worked into a movie, a reason that she's made it into the NUMBER ONE slot on the NYT list of best selling YA novels. If you only read one book this year it should be this one, because what Angie Thomas has given readers of all backgrounds is an OPPORTUNITY; for conversation, for education, for people to talk about the very real and very present issues happening in our world.

It starts right away, the story and the characters tugging at every piece of the heart. This story is not just about the death of our main character Starr's friend Khalil. His death is a huge part, the beginning of a turning point, but what happens before and after is equally important, and every piece of the plot leads to a narrative about what racial inequality looks and feels like through the eyes of a teenage girl. Even before she witnesses the death of Khalil by a white cop, Starr's world is split in two, along with her sense of self. She and her siblings attend a preppy predominately white school, and that means that Starr feels an ever present need to filter herself, to cut out any part of who she is as a person that her peers might take and mold into a negative stereotype about her. I felt immediately heartbroken for her, my gut clenching every time she had to translate her thoughts into something deemed more "Williamson" friendly, because for her it comes from a place of fear, of not feeling safe in her environment. Even when she's home in Garden Heights, there's still pressure, consequences to bare when people decide you think you're better than them. Starr is constantly defending herself, constantly on egg shells. The power of this story comes from the fact that this balancing act in and of itself is an unjust thing for Starr to experience, for anyone to experience. Two versions of herself and sometimes she feels like neither one of them is enough. As a reader I was vastly in love with her by the end of the second paragraph, wanted to reach into the story and ask her how I could support her.

It's no surprise that the balancing act crumbles after Khalil's death. I have to say that this scene was one of the most powerful and upsetting things I've ever read. They physical gravity of this scene is appropriate for the teen audience, but Thomas makes sure that you feel it. Starr's panic, her horror, her instant shock and paralyzing grief mingled with a fear for her own safety is utterly palpable and I don't know if anyone out there could get through the scene with dry eyes. I know I didn't. This is because Starr's story, versions of it, have been all over the news and social media, different names and different people. Her narrative is a representative for real people and that means that every bit of emotion hits you like a sucker punch to the gut. Your fingers white knuckle the pages and you think "My god that happened to somebody. Many somebodies. How many people went through that and didn't even make it to my local news channel?"

The questions don't stop. As Starr wrestles with the choice of giving a statement to the police, testifying for a grand journey, trying to grieve but maintain anonymity because she's scared for herself and her family, the hits keep coming and they all leave the reader with question marks, with that pit in their stomach that reminds them "You can turn the page and leave those words behind but this is happening. This is happening around you all the time." It's a sobering understanding that made my chest tight with aching throughout the entire book. I fell in love with Starr's family, their vibrant personalities and the way they supported every decision she made with love and warmth that made me think of my relationship with my own mother. Every time Starr took a breath and a forward step towards reclaiming an independent sense of self I cheered for her, every time she was able to snip away a piece of the many obstacles that made her feel like she needed to split herself into two people I cheered for her. When she finally started talking about Khalil without fear at Williamson I was practically sobbing and tempted to literally applaud over the pages of the book. But most importantly, reading this book as a female with white skin, I felt a humbling respect for every character in the book and every person in the world that those characters are speaking for. I felt a desire to check myself, to ask myself if I've ever let thoughts even partially motivated by a judgement based on someone's skin color to dictate my behavior or my choices. Do I actively leave myself open enough to be educated, to be supportive, to be a part of a more positive solution and not the problem?

It's not a bad thing to ask questions, and one of my favorite scenes in the book was when Starr's white boyfriend Chris said something offensive and that moment lead to an honest conversation with questions and answers and you could feel him trying to be open to being educated, to seeing the situation from somebody else's perspective and understand how it made them feel. This is why I say that THE HATE U GIVE is an opportunity for everyone. It left me wanting to talk to anyone, everyone, to ask questions and be further educated, to do everything I can to replace a little bit of the hate in this world with love. There is still not enough conversation being had about racial inequality, there can never be enough conversation as long as it still exists in our world. This can be said for all instances of inequality and that's the other powerful thing about this book. Once you open the door to talking about one aspect of inequality in the world, you're more likely to talk about others, like a domino effect.

THE HATE U GIVE is raw emotion from beginning to end. There's the fight to get justice for Khalil but alongside that is Starr's very personal fight to rectify the imbalance of her two worlds. There's no promise of a perfect fairytale wrapped up ending for either of these struggles, but there's conversation. There are steps made in each fight and each of those steps matter, every word on the pages of this book matter and when you're done reading you are left taking stock of everything else in the world that matters, that should matter. I said it before and I'll say it again, if you only read one book this year it should be THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas. Read it with an open mind and an open heart, read it and strike up a conversation with someone, ask questions. Then read it again, because this is not the kind of book you read just once. 

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG14 (Kissing and a handful of more advanced sexual scenarios)
Language: PG14 ( There isn't an excess of cursing but there's some, combined with rough language grounded in violence or hate speech.)
Violence: PG14 (There is violence present, and while it is not visually graphic it is emotionally intense. )
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

In my mind, this cover is as stunning as the story within.  The slight shimmer to Starr and the sign she's holding is eye catching, and the fact that she is absolutely surrounded by white blank space feels like both a metaphor and a statement on how so many youths are blank canvases unsure of the them they want to be.
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Author: Angie Thomas
Release Date: February 28th, 2017
Publisher: Balzer + Bray / Harpercollins
Received: Purchased

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, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. 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 destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.