The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas – 2017 – YA Contemporary
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.
I really enjoyed the writing style of this novel. In particular, there was a moment where Starr was leaving her “white” school and the language not only in the dialogue, but also in the prose changed seamlessly from standard English into AAVE, which I thought was linguistically very interesting.
Unfortunately that was about the only positive thing I can say about the book. This novel was the highest average rating on my Goodreads TBR so maybe I raised my expectations too much, but I was really disappointed.
My main issue with the book was the way that it portrayed all the white characters as either stupid and “trying to be black” or else racist. I think you can see this particularly with Starr’s Williamson “friends”. We have Hailey, who I understand is supposed to represent that some people have prejudices they refuse to overcome but I just felt Starr didn’t try with her at all – just ditched her as a friend rather than try to explain her side calmly.
Similarly, I didn’t understand the relationship between Starr and Chris. I felt like Chris truly cared about Starr, but any time she spoke to him she either put him down for being white, or just told him he would never understand – how can he if he has no experience, and you won’t explain to him.
Finally, Maya seemed like a character just put into the book to say that ethnic minorities have to stick together and only they understand what it is like to be oppressed. The problem is many white people have also faced oppression, like the queer community or transgender community. Maybe I just don’t understand the issue as a white Brit, but I didn’t see any growth in Starr.
On the other hand, we were supposed to feel empathy with Khalil and see him as this really great guy. It’s disgusting that so many black people are killed by police officers and I’ve listened to podcasts on issues such as Trayvon Martin’s death with real empathy. But acting like Khalil was a perfect person ignores the fact that he was a drug dealer, which again leads to many innocent lives being ruined. No-one deserves to be racially attacked but I couldn’t empathise with Starr when she couldn’t see his flaws.
I gave this book 3/5. As much as I thought the language and writing style was well written, I would struggle to recommend this book because of the issues I had with the 2D characters and the stereotypes of race and racism. I am really looking forward to reading On the Come Up though, to see if I enjoy a less racially-charged book more.