I FINALLY READ THIS HYPED HYPED HYPED BOOK. Spoiler: I quite liked it. But if you want to know more than this, read the review below.
Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: YA Contemporary
Themes: Police brutality, friendship, racism, growing up
My blurb: Starr has always felt like two people: the one at her fancy private school, who fits in with the basketball team, earns street cred just because she’s black, and refuses to ‘talk ghetto’; and the Starr at home in her black neighbourhood, the one whose best friend was shot in a drive-by, the one who is only known as ‘Big Mav’s daughter who works in the store’. When Starr is the only witness to the death of her childhood friend Khalil, she has to choose between speaking up against police brutality and the danger she’s going to put herself in. Not to mention telling her friends at school about what happened when it’s not a School Starr thing.
Well, hello most hyped book of the whole year. I’m glad I read you.
Because of all the hype around this book, most people know that The Hate U Give is about the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This movement is extremely removed from my own experiences. I’m not black or American. I’ve never been to the US and I don’t plan to. I’ve grown up incredibly priveliged in New Zealand, where police brutality is totally not a thing, and India, where the police are extremely corrupt but violence isn’t normally linked to race. So I can’t at all say that this issue is near or dear to my heart. I’m pretty ignorant about it, actually. And although I don’t plan to make Black Lives Matter my cause (because a. I don’t really have stakes in it, except for the fact that it’s unjust, and b. there are a lot of other problems that I do care about), I’m extremely glad I read this, mainly because it taught me a lot about something important I didn’t know about.
First of all, the writing in this book rocked. I loved Starr’s voice, and I think (based on, I’m sure, thoroughly inaccurate movies) that it was really authentic. I liked the way Starr narrated, honest and engaging and funny, and how Thomas also captured the differences between the ‘hood speak’ in Garden Heights and the more proper, educated dialogue at school. I read this in less than 24 hours, and although it wasn’t a short book, I felt like the writing and everything that happened more than made up for that.
As for the plot, it was a bit confusing. The book basically starts when Khalil is shot, and follows Starr as she decides to speak up, although she’s still terrified. Based on the blurb, I expected it to be a lot more about Starr’s two selves and how she deals with school, but most of the story was about Starr’s family and her place in Garden Heights.
Like a lot of other reviewers, I adored her family. It’s kind of messy: Starr has an older brother who has a different mother to her own, her father was jailed because of his gang activity before leaving the life, her mother became pregnant with her in high school—but they were really close and honest and I just loved how family was a big thing. Starr’s Uncle Carlos (who was like a replacement father while her dad was in prison) was also lovely, and also interesting because of his opinion on her case as a policeman who worked with the policeman who shot Khalil. Best of all, the whole family were all very round, realistic characters, with flaws and fantasticness.
Some things I wish had been in the story more: Starr’s boyfriend, Chris, and more exploration of why they were good together (I did like how the book wasn’t at all about Starr getting with him. Few YA books have a MC who starts and ends the book with the same love interest); Starr’s friend Maya (who was awesome+Taiwanese); Starr’s friend Hailey (and more explanation of why they were friends in the first place); basketball (Starr is really into basketball but doesn’t play it that much in the story? There’s a great scene where her family is fighting over who to cheer for in the NBA); Brickz (because what is a story without dogs); Starr’s conflict between two selves.
Although The Hate U Give was about police brutality and gang violence and drug dealing, it wasn’t preachy or depressing. It was engaging and funny but also serious.
I really liked the setting of Garden Heights. Starr’s family wasn’t poor, but they lived in the ‘bad’ side of town, and I felt like the contrast between this and where their Uncle Carlos lived, in a gated community, was really interesting. It wasn’t just shown to be poor and violent: Starr also described her neighbourhood’s unity and all the good people who lived there. There was a certain self awareness in her narration, about how she was at school and home, about the contrasts in her neighbourhood, which made the book really easy to read.
Overall, I really liked this book, its plot and characters, and how it dealt with serious issues in a sensitive yet engaging way, one that I could relate to despite not understanding the context for #BlackLivesMatter beforehand.
Have you read this? What other books do you recommend that deal with racism? How do you feel about reading hyped books?