Genre: Young Adult
Themes: Social Injustice, Police Brutality, Identity, Discrimination, Racism
Rating: 5 stars
As I sat down to finally (!) start reading The Hate U Give, I already knew that in my hands I had a really important book. It follows African-American 16-year-old Starr Carter, whose life is massively changed after she witnesses the murder of her best friend… Khalil Harris is his name, and he was shot multiple times by a white police officer. The story goes on to explore the aftermath of Khalil’s death which offers a very real insight into police brutality. It also looks at the importance of using your voice to speak out on injustice, as well as the challenges that might come with it. Readers also get the chance to analyse the complexities that come with understanding your own identity in a world where you don’t feel like you fit in. The Hate U Give left me feeling both informed and heard… it was the story I needed to read, and Starr was the character I needed to meet.
So… I had The Hate U Give on my shelf for nearly 2 years before I read it. 2 years! Don’t do what I did because I was so annoyed with myself for not having read it sooner. I’m very interested in societal issues that affect people of colour and so this was why I was initially drawn to the book. And I knew it would provide a very real, very insightful look into police brutality and attitudes towards black people in America (more on that later) and so I knew it would be the perfect book for me to read however, what I didn’t expect was the whole theme around identity.
Starr lives in a predominantly black neighbourhood but goes to a school which is predominantly white. Both places are basically worlds apart they’re that different but the issue lay with Starr feeling like she was two completely different people depending on where she was and who she was with. She often felt too black or too white, never quite being able to just be ‘Starr,’ even when amongst those who she was close to. I experienced a similar feeling growing up in my teen years, I often felt like I wasn’t black enough in certain situations but yet I was too black in other situations and it wasn’t until I was older that I realised others experienced a similar thing, especially at school. And so when I said earlier that Starr was the character that I needed to meet, I think about how perfect it would have been for me to read about, and connect with Starr at a time when I was going through a similar experience. Even so, I appreciated being able to see part of myself within her character.
To be honest, I think Starr is a character that many readers will be able to connect with… apart from this element of not being able to fit in, I thought she was really witty and even though she was strong and had a wall up, she had very vulnerable moments which just made me want to hug her, and let her know that things will be okay. Khalil’s death really hit her hard, and just being able to read about her thoughts and feelings helped me as a reader to understand the impact of police brutality on a deeper level.
“Starr!” a familiar voice says. The sea of people parts for him like he’s a brown-skinned Moses. Guys give him daps, and girls crane their necks to look at him. He smiles at me, and his dimples ruin any G persona he has.”
Starr and Khalil had been best friends since they were little kids and from the opening chapters, you just knew that their friendship was solid. You could also tell that Khalil was just really sweet. And I have to say, reading about his death and its aftermath was very hard. Even though you as a reader know what’s about to happen, nothing really prepares you for the shock of a 16 year old boy being gunned down by a police officer. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you know that this is exactly what happens in the real world. The persecution of black people within America has occurred for hundreds of years… you’d think that things would be different. And so the fact that police brutality is so rife within America today is just so unsettling.
It unsettles me that Khalil was portrayed as a thug in the media; someone from a rough area who was involved in drugs and gangs whereas the police officer was portrayed as the victim, someone who was only doing their job. Is it really the job of police officers to murder unarmed children? It seems bizarre when you think about it in this way but this story mirrors real life. This is real life.
And this is why The Hate U Give is such a powerful book; it makes you see past any prejudices and it makes you see that these police brutality stories are more than just a headline or hashtag… Actual people are being murdered because of the colour of their skin by people who are supposed to protect the public. This book will help you to realise that black people are getting killed at the hands of an oppressive system that doesn’t necessarily care about them. And so just having this story; hearing someone’s story and going through their pain is enough to jolt you and make you pay attention. The injustice of it all really hurts me but I’d rather feel this than feel nothing at all.
And so overall, this book impacted me in a really big way and I can’t thank Angie Thomas enough for putting this story out there. I’m thankful for the conversations it will ignite and something I’ll take away from this book is that you really can’t take anything at face value, or judge anyone for their actions. I always believed that everyone had a choice but honestly, I’ve learnt that choice is a privilege that many don’t have. The Hate U Give will make you think… it really is worth the read.