This might just be the most hyped book of all time. I don’t know about you but my expectations have been ratcheted up to unreasonable levels since sometime in October. And you know what? This book delivered.
The Hate U Give is the story of 16-year-old Starr who feels trapped between the rough black neighborhood of her home and her white suburban school. She is on the way home from a party with a friend when they are stopped by the police. What follows is the all too common occurrence of an unarmed young black man being killed by a white police officer.
What really impressed me about this book was the way that it never devolved into a one-dimensional “issue” book. This isn’t after school special, very special Blossom angst. Because police violence in America is so important and timely it would have been very easy to paint a flat portrait.
Where The Hate U Give really shines is in characterization. There is a large cast of very different people in this book and I feel as if I know each and every one of them in real life. No one is completely vilified and no one is sainted. Starr herself manages to be funny, positive, vulnerable, nerdy and brave. Sometimes all at the same time. She is the definition of a multifaceted character. I loved her character growth. Throughout the book, she learns to unify the two selves that she has created for her two worlds and also to find her voice.
I loved her parents. There is a tendency in YA for parents to be absent or terrible but Lisa and Maverick were not only present they were exemplary. I love that their flaws and their occasional conflicts with one another never got in the way of their love for their children, one another, or their neighborhood. Yes, yes, yes. I loved Starr’s family. I love her brothers, her police officer uncle, and even her crabby Nana.
The writing is rock solid. The voice felt fresh and unforced. Many people will probably pick this book up simply because it is timely but what I cannot overstate is that this is a damn well written, emotional, and entertaining book. This isn’t a book that you will have to force yourself to finish because you feel that you “should”. In this case, an “important” book just might become your favorite book. The big idea that I walked away from this book with is that there is always more to people than we know. And that knowing one thing about a person doesn’t mean we know them.
The Hate U Give blew me away. I wasn’t even halfway through when I went online and bought a copy for my mother, my niece, the school that I work for, and the schools that my nieces and nephews go to. Everyone needs to read this book.
Ultimately, this isn’t a book that was written for me. It was written for black girls who far too often don’t see themselves in the books that they read. This is the nuanced, sensitive, brave, and funny reflection that they have deserved.
I will eagerly await some more.
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.