Book review: The Hate U Give | Angie Thomas

Sixteen year old Starr was taught many things: eat your vegies, do your homework—and never make sudden moves if you’re stopped by the cops. When she and childhood friend, Khalil, are pulled over by a white police officer, Starr learns the gruesome reality of her parents’ lessons. Faced with shock and terror, Starr must navigate the unmeshable extremes of her life—her simmering black neighbourhood, her blissfully unaware, mostly-white, wealthy school friends, and her loving uncle who is also a cop and respects the officer in question. Starr must decide if, when, and how she will stand up and fight for Khalil.

Angie Thomas’s debut novel, which was inspired by the #blacklivesmatter movement, sparked a battle between thirteen publishing houses, was immediately optioned by filmmaker Fox 2000, and hit number one on the New York Times Best Seller list on the day of its release. Moreover, the novel was written by a young black woman, is about a young black woman, and features a young black woman on the cover, three events that shouldn’t be rare in 2017.

Starr is fun-loving, raw, and real, a smart teenager just trying to get things right. Thomas drew the title, The Hate U Give or THUG, from a Tupac quote, in which he vowed young people will rise up if you mistreat them. It’s a theme that resonates throughout.

Given the subject matter, the book is… unexpectedly delightful. There is limited exploration of hard, intense emotions. And move over, the Brady Bunch: Starr’s family is the kind everyone actually wants. On the other hand, some portrayals, like that of domestic violence, horrify. And yet a warm, light-hearted feel regularly returns. I think I worked out Thomas’s reason for so much light amongst the storm: to show how violence, discrimination, and other atrocities are just part of the everyday scene for marginalised people—but more importantly, so are love, family, and community. Which makes the real gift of the novel the humanisation of black lives. Their humanity matters, because they matter.

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