Renee's Reviews > The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
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it was amazing

Starr Carter is 16 years old, and if that isn't an identity crisis in and of itself (everyone who has ever been 16 can probably attest), she's got to reconcile the dual life she's living. When she was born, her family lived in the projects and eventually got to move up in the neighborhood to a small home where she's grown up since. The neighborhood is poor and she's become accustomed to gun shots, gangs, crime. Because the schools there in Garden Heights were unfortunately not very good, her parents find a way to send her and her two brothers, Seven and Sekani, to Williamson -- a private school about 45 minutes away from her neighborhood. When she's not being Garden Heights Starr, she's Williamson Starr -- intelligent, well spoken, well liked, and cool.

One night when she and her childhood best friend Khalil are driving home from a party, an officer pulls them over. Khalil is a little annoyed because he was careful to not be speeding or doing anything wrong and he feels that it's unjust. The officer asks him to get out of the car. He does. But this book takes place in the present, and so the tension in the story lets the reader know that he's well aware of some of the recent situations with cops shooting black people. Knowing that Starr must be afraid, he opens his door to ask her if she's okay, and as she looks over at him, she hears the gunshots, sees him get hit, watches him fall. She holds him in the street as he dies.

Unfortunately for Starr, this is not the first best friend she's watch die. 6 years before that, when she was 10 years old, she's outside playing with her best friend Natasha when Natasha is shot and killed in a drive-by.

(None of this is a spoiler, by the way. Khalil's death is mentioned in the synopsis of the book.)

Starr knows what happened, but will she be able to convince a jury? After his death, some information about Khalil's recent life surfaces that creates tension with a local gang, as well.

She's desperately trying to hold it together. She doesn't feel like it's something that she can talk to her friends at Williamson about -- not even her boyfriend, Chris. Even though he is her "normal," as she says, Chris's family is rich and white and while she loves him, she's not sure he will understand the part of her life that she goes home to every day. The people in her neighborhood. The neighborhood itself. She becomes moody, angry, withdrawn. It causes tensions with her friends and when they ask her if the Khalil who died was HER Khalil, she lies and says no, believing that to be easier. But when one of her best friends' brothers plans a walkout protest in honor of Khalil, she gets angry. She can hear kids talking about going to it because they just want to get out of class (including one of her best friends, Hailey), and she believes that this is disrespectful to Khalil's memory.

And then she goes home and she's Garden Heights Starr, working in her father's grocery store. Her father, Big Mav, is a former gangbanger and got out, but knows that he is the exception and not the rule. He's trying to give his kids a good life, but doesn't want to leave Garden Heights, despite his wife Lisa's begging to get out for their safety, because he believes that they have to stay and help improve the community. But when the community finds out what happened to Khalil, riots begin. Starr and her mother and brothers stay hunkered down in their house every evening because anyone outside after 10 p.m. is subject to arrest. The cops show up in riot gear with tear gas and drive tanks through the streets.

It's a far cry from the way her Williamson friends live.

As the story goes on, Starr has to learn to reconcile these two identities and figure out how to be loyal to her family and her community while still making her own place in the world and dreaming of what she wants her own life to be like. She does all of this while testifying before a Grand Jury, doing a 20/20-style television interview about Khalil (as The Witness), and learning -- with the help of her lawyer Ms. Ofrah -- to be an activist and to use her voice as her weapon instead of actual weapons.

Spoiler Alert

The book builds up to the night when the Grand Jury reaches its decision in the case against the white cop who took Khalil's life. He's not indicted and Garden Heights starts rioting. Starr's family no longer lives there at this point, with Lisa having finally convinced Big Mav that he needed to get his kids out of there. After Starr and Chris help Seven to rescue a neighborhood friend, DeVante, whom Starr's father was hiding at her Uncle Carlos's house to keep him away from the gang who was on the lookout for him and who was badly beaten when they found him, they hear the verdict on the radio and drive immediately to Garden Heights. They're trying to get to their father's grocery store but all of the roads are blocked. The find Starr's lawyer, Ms. Ofrah, leading a protest in the street, and even though it's peaceful, the cops are threatening them to get out of the road. Starr finds herself atop a car, talking into a bullhorn about Khalil and what happened. She's moved beyond sadness and now she's angry. The crowd cheers for her when she gives a very poignant speech on the situation. When the cops throw a canister of tear gas into the crowd, it lands by her feet, and she picks it up and hurls it back at them.

They launch more, and Starr, Devante, Seven and Chris all make a run for it. They get to their dad's grocery store eventually, and while they're making their way to the back to call their parents (who are, naturally, worried sick that they can't find their two oldest children), someone (a King Lord) throws a molotov cocktail inside the door, and the whole place goes up in flames. They almost can't get out, but fortunately her dad shows up just at the right moment to open the back door for them. This was the gang's way of getting back at her family because she "dry snitched" on national television about King's drug dealings and gang activity.

End Spoiler

While the book does deal quite a bit with race and a lot of people get perhaps a little TOO hung up on that, at its core, this is a book about identity and about figuring out who you are in the context of where you come from and where you want to be. It just happens that it's also told through the lens of the current political climate and racial tensions.

I loved this book so much. I started it and then, after 4 chapters, had to stop to read something else I got in on hold at the library before I lost that. But once I came back to this book, I tore through it. I couldn't put it down for the last 300 or so pages. It's a phenomenal debut from Angie Thomas and I think it should be required reading for everyone.

A note about this: it is a YA book, and even though it's written with adult themes and adult language, it's important to remember that its primary audience is still young adults. I've seen reviews where people talk about how the writing is boring or not sophisticated enough. I have to disagree. I know this is going to come across as being snarky, but I think if you're going to be an elitist about it, you're not going to enjoy it because you're going to want more from it than any YA book is going to give, and if that's the case, stick with Finnegan's Wake and Infinite Jest and keep telling people about those.

I'm also not sure this book will work for anyone who isn't open-minded enough to have their beliefs shaken up a bit. We all like to think we're open-minded, but if your first instinct is to rail against a fictional character's fictional story, then the answer might be no.

But if you want an engaging story that speaks to our times and from which we could probably all learn something, read this book. If your mind is open and you want to learn, read this book. If you want to talk about the merits of this book and the author's talent more than you want to find a reason to start a political war, read this book. It's beautifully done, in my opinion. You are entitled to yours if you don't feel the same.

This book may cause political debate. I don't want to engage in that here or anywhere else, really. I ask that any comments please be respectful.

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Reading Progress

March 11, 2018 – Started Reading
April 8, 2018 – Shelved
April 8, 2018 – Finished Reading

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