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.
Every now and again a book comes along that I recommend to every single person I know. A book that I think everybody should read, regardless of age or gender or race.
The Hate U Give is one of these books, because it’s moving and powerful and necessary. In protagonist Starr, Thomas embodies the voice of a generation; a young black girl in America experiencing racism on so many levels, fighting with her own self-identity, and coming to terms with the realities of the world she lives in. And, as I’d like to point out, this is our world right now, and this is why it’s so important to read Starr’s story.
Thomas navigates Starr’s home life, her so-called friends, her relationship with Chris, a white boy from her predominately white high school, and the everyday experiences in their dangerous neighbourhood, in an entirely compelling and truthful way. It views the problems of race, and integration, racism and police brutality, through the eyes of a young person who has been brought up into it (the idea that she and her siblings had to be told from a young age by their parents how to interact with policemen is truly heartbreaking), but who also doesn’t want to accept it. Her best friend was murdered in front of her eyes, and yet the policeman who did it incurs no punishment for his brutal actions.
I don’t really want to say much more about The Hate U Give, because part of the joy, and the horror, is following Starr’s journey from the beginning as she fights to be heard. Starr is a shining star of a protagonist, The Hate U Give positively glowing with compassion and resilience and the truth.
An absolute must-read and an outstanding debut novel from an author I’m already excited to read more of. I loved Thomas’ final lines in the author’s notes:
“But my ultimate hope is that every single person who reads The Hate U Give walks away from it understanding those feelings and sharing them in some way. And then, maybe then, Emmett Louis Till can truly become history.”