It’s a sickeningly familiar narrative: while driving home, sixteen-year-old Starr Carter watches as her best friend Khalil gets pulled over by a police officer and shot.
We know The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas as the YA Black Lives Matter novel released earlier this year, but it’s so much more than that.
The Hate U Give is not solely focused on the aftermath of Khalil’s death. It’s also a window into the circumstances that allowed it to happen, the void his death tears open in Starr and their community, and the reality that one boy’s death will not be enough to end centuries of inequality.
That is, unless the living start to do something about it.
The Hate U Give covers a lot of ground: the grim necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement, what it’s like growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood plagued by gang wars, struggling to reconcile that with life as a black kid in an affluent private school, dealing with unintentional and intentional racism from peers, and making interracial relationships work.
(Squint a little bit and you might even see references to the vicious cycle between poverty and drug trade!)
Prose-wise, the journey is mostly smooth. Angie Thomas has a captivating voice that invites you to see the world the way she has always seen it. Though there are times that the points it makes feel as jarring as a sudden bump in the road. But given the subject matter, sometimes subtlety isn’t the way to go. When reading a book about why black lives matter, don’t expect the answers to be hidden between the lines.
And here I place my disclaimer: I am not a black woman. As much as I would love to talk about how the book’s message moved me, the message itself would be diluted through my perspective, and it’s vital that you experience this story in its pure form. The Hate U Give is a story about being black in 2017 and being black your whole life, written by a black woman—and the best thing I can do is to insist you listen to her tell it.
This review was included in the Play Without Apology staff’s round-up of Favorite Reads of 2017, originally published on September 15, 2017.