This past Christmas, my mom surprised me with Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give. Surprisingly, I hadn't heard much about this book before reading it even though it was one of the most talked about books of 2017!
I finished the book in just two days for a couple of reasons; the first is that my mom gifted it to me on the condition that I had to finish reading it before I left for college so that she could read it but the second is that once I started I could not stop. I say this about almost all of the books I read but it's true! Whenever I'm really into a story it consumes my life and all I want to do is curl up in bed and read.
A short synopsis of the book: Starr Carter is a 16-year-old African American girl who feels constantly torn between the rough community in which she grew up and the privileged private school that she attends. Balancing her two selves is difficult but manageable until her childhood best friend is murdered by a police officer and Starr is the only witness. Suddenly, Starr is pushed out of the shadows and into the spotlight as the police and the members of her community try to figure what really happened that night. The Hate U Give handles a number of issues that plague society such as gang violence, domestic violence, drug abuse, police brutality and racial microaggression.
Honestly, when I first started the book I was unimpressed. The story felt too familiar and predictable instead of the adventure I expected. It took me a few chapters, but I realized that the beauty of The Hate U Give isn't in the plot but the authenticity of the characters and their emotions. None of the characters are good or bad, they're all flawed in some way that matters which allows everyone to identify with at least one of the characters.
What was the most surprising is how much I identified with Starr. At first look, it's not that surprising considering that we're both African American teenage girls. But beneath the surface, we couldn't be more different. Starr is a tomboy who grew up in a rough neighborhood and likes to stay in the background where drama and conflict can't reach her. I've always been a "girly girl" who has grown up with privilege and loves to be the center of attention. But throughout the book, Starr is asked why she doesn't have black friends and if it's because she thinks she's better than them, she's asked if she likes black guys or white guys, and she's expected within her school to be both a face or the black community but not to be "too black." These are things that I encountered all the time in high school and it's not that uncommon for other girls like me. I love that The Hate U Give does a phenomenal job of accurately expressing and representing what it is like to be on the receiving end of these questions and expectations and how hard it can be to explain this to your friends and family you can't relate.
Speaking to the political aspect of the story, I appreciated that The Hate U Give isn't a commentary on police brutality or gang violence. It tells Starr's story which does include a cop who killed her best friend, but it also includes a cop who's her uncle and a father figure to her in a lot of ways. The story isn't anti-police or anti-white in any way and I appreciate that these biases were excluded from Starr's narrative.
While race plays a large role in the story, The Hate U Give is also about what it's like to be a teenager. Starr disagrees with her parents, she's annoyed with her siblings, and she's going through a confusing time in her friendships. I'm excited for my mom to read the book so that she can understand what it's like to be a teenager in the 21st century. Maybe it'll be all too familiar to her or maybe it will shed light on issues that she never experienced.
The Hate U Give succeeds in portraying a genuine experience of an African American teenager in the 21st century. The story is so important for girls (and boys) like me to recognize that there are people who go through some of the same things that they do because trust me, it helps. It is also important for literally everyone else to realize the impact that their thoughts and expectations have on the lives of others and understand that 100% of the time there is more to a person than what you see. Have you read The Hate U Give, if so what did you think? xx, Lauren
P.S. Just after reading the book I read that The Hate U Give is being turned into a film that should come out later this year or early next year, as filming just ended. None other than Amandla Stenberg is playing Starr Carter which is both expected and exciting! I'm also pumped about Anthony Mackie's role because I'm a huge Captain America fan and I've loved seeing him as Falcon. I have to say I'm not a huge Kian Lawley fan because even though I had high hopes, I was disappointed by him in the Before I Fall film. Needless to say, I'm excited about the movie and I hope that it lives up to the book.