Author : Angie Thomas
Published By : Balzer + Bray
Year Published : 2017
Genre / Tags : Contemporary, YA, Realistic Fiction
Mood : Everything
Formats : Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
# of Pages : 444 pages (Hardcover)
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, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. 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 upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Before I get into this review I want to mention that I did my first buddy read ever, reading this book with Dana from Devour Books With Dana. One of the most enjoyable reading experiences I’ve ever had and Dana is a lovely person! I highly recommend checking out her reading blog. She has a lot of very well written reviews on contemporary and YA novels among other things. Thanks again for the amazing buddy read, Dana!
I have a lot to say about this book so I’m splitting it off into two sections.
Here is a short version of my review.
This book is worth reading. It’s well-written and a cut above the typical YA, very much living up to the hype. I really liked Starr and could relate to some aspects of her experiences. Her family was fun to read about and vividly realized. This book takes some complicated, often ignored or misconstrued subject matter and builds an enthralling and touching story around it that fosters understanding.
Now onto the full version.
This book is something special. I sense it may go down as a modern classic. I remember being a kid and looking at all the various books in the kids and middle grade section and coming across Newbury Award Winners. Books with little gold/silver foils on them indicating a higher level of quality and distinct importance toward fostering development and informing a young reader of important events, historic or current.
The Hate U Give is like that, but fun, current, non-preachy, and easy to read and get into. It doesn’t have an aura of hopelessness or sadness; rather, a really lively and warm atmosphere. The serious subject matter is tackled in a way that isn’t clinical or quietly vague. This is a loud and brave book that, in it’s most valuable moments, clarifies a time, a place, and a point of view that is often misunderstood and even blatantly silenced.
If you’re thinking of reading it, I recommend choosing now rather than later. This book is hyper-contemporary and very relevant in the here and now, inspired by events and experiences that people are going through at this moment or had been through within the last couple of years. Though this story is fiction, it’s built off of a myriad of true events and on-going problems that can still be properly researched and remembered. A lot of the dialogue and references are extremely current, such as references to social media. I can see them becoming puzzling to grasp 5-10 years from now.
I feel awkward speaking of this book as if it’s here for the purpose of research. It isn’t presented that way. This is an endearing and enjoyable, multi-faceted novel that I think would appeal to any fan of contemporary YA.
There’s a little bit of comedy and romance and really touching friendship and family development. At it’s core, this is just a story about a girl and her day-to-day life that also happens to be gut-punchingly genuine in conveying current issues not only having to do with police brutality but casual racism and the role that media and the larger society plays in contributing to injustices.
There are many small but incredible moments where I was left reeling thinking “I remember hearing people say things like that.” or “I remember witnessing something like that happening.” or “I remember thinking something like that, and having since realized my ignorance.”
There’s also a list at the end of the book containing names of victims whose stories are all kind of interlaced into this one, serving as inspiration.
Starr is a fantastic YA heroine. She goes through an event that would leave anyone traumatized. She deals with a lot of complex internal strife, but still comes out of it all a thoughtful and nuanced, motivated person. Her family members are given similar depth. This is one of those very few YA novels where parents are present and conveyed as strong, loving, and vividly realized characters.
I could really relate to Starr’s issues with fitting in. I think her story of being a fish out of water can be relatable to pretty much anyone who has ever felt that way. Her telling of it deals specifically with being from a poor neighborhood but going to an elite private school, and feeling like she has to hide aspects of herself and her upbringing.
Effectively, living two very different lives and navigating two very different worlds capably in order to be successful.
In her predominately white school, she’s under pressure to shut up about black issues. In her black neighborhood, she hears many generalizations about white people and worries about what her dad will think of her having a white boyfriend.
I liked the relationship between Starr and Chris. The problems they faced were immense and some of their interpersonal conflicts would seem barely worth it. But they didn’t lose faith in each other and I was just really impressed with Chris in general, he was almost too good to be true. But I felt all sorts of genuine warm feelings for the character and the pairing of he and Starr against the odds.
There were a few moments where I felt Starr could go a bit easier on him, but most of what they would discuss was very realistic and relevant to interracial relationships. Long story short, hooray for a romance I actually felt something for in a YA novel! And no love triangle. The lack of a love triangle and the aforementioned parental character development are two big ways this book dodges cliches.
There are some moments where Starr is told some broad stereotypes about white people, or what the black people in Starr’s life think white people think about them. I think these lines could be startling in their directness or inspire a kind of kneejerk reaction of discomfort or defensiveness in some readers, especially older ones who might have limited exposure to points of view like Starr’s. I thought the context did a good job supporting why characters were saying what they were saying, and Starr is understandably caught in-between points of view.
She, at regular intervals, brings up “not all cops” or “not all white people” to help make her intentions clear. Though I didn’t think those additions necessary, they can help get readers back on track. Starr does not want to acquiesce to generalizations, she just wants people to acknowledge troubling trends and know about Khalil and understand that he was a victim.
The last thing I want to cover is Khalil, the victim of the novel and Starr’s childhood friend. We get to know him personally for a very short number of pages but by the end of the book I felt a deep understanding for his character, through the power of Starr’s ongoing commitment to justice for him.
There are so many important, subtle accomplishments in the handling of Khalil’s characterization. Expressing the tragedy of a teenager becoming a drug dealer and how it can happen- and that it IS a tragedy that should be met with constructive solutions. The struggles in inner city environments that can lead to youths going down wrong paths. The tendency to trust an idealized perpetrator and villainize an imperfect victim. The fact that imperfect victims are still victims who deserve justice. The importance of being brave and standing your ground in the face of ill-informed assumptions, no matter how prevalent they are. I feel that this book illustrated, through Khalil and Starr, all of these important things.
I could probably go on for many more paragraphs about how much this book accomplishes. The main point is, it’s probably the best YA novel I’ve read and easily recommendable.
Overall Rating – 10/10
Why You Should Try It – Lives up to its extremely good reputation. Fantastic writing that is both thought-provoking and fun. Starr is a great heroine with a clear voice and well-illustrated point of view that is not often heard. The characters feel real and aren’t one-note. The tone of this novel strikes a multi-faceted balance between happy, humorous, sad, shocking, and more- just a wide gamut of emotions. Dodges cliches.
Why You Might Not Like It – While there are funny moments, there are very heavy and thought-provoking moments, tear-jerking moments, and overall I would not advise reading the book this instant if you’re more in the mood for something light and easy.The Hate U Give Collector’s Edition (Amazon Link)
Thanks so much for reading my review! Have you read The Hate U Give and have any thoughts on it? Are you interested in reading it? I appreciate all of your thoughts.