Don't let the title of this post fool you. The Hate U Give is anything but irrelevant. It's just the first in a series of book reviews I've planned where the books have been out for awhile.
This book is really significant in a number of ways. First, it tackles a myriad of social issues, mostly stemming from systemic racism. Secondly, it's an opportunity for black girls to read about black girls written by a black woman. And lastly, its very publication was a lesson in the flaws of the NYT Bestsellers List, which allowed a white woman to buy the top spot, which was held by this book.
You probably remember the kerfuffle over the Handbook for Mortals mysteriously snagging the #1 spot on the NYT's young adult bestsellers list for 23 hours. If not, here's a good article that summarises what happened. In a nutshell, the author wanted to be an actress, but couldn't sell her screenplay in which the main character was written for her. So she adapted it into a cringe-worthy novel and paid a company to place unfulfillable orders with NYT reporting booksellers in order to make the book seem popular.
But Angie Thomas and her stunning book have overcome this and it's now being taught in schools. And, predictably, a Texas school banned it.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of Oscar Grant, The Hate U Give follows sixteen-year-old Starr, the only witness to the killing of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
This book follows the aftermath of that police shooting, and the fallout for Starr's personal life.
Even if you're aware of the insidious ways systemic racism affects people of colour, this book is an eye-opening look at just how deep it goes. Thomas touches on the ways society lets blackness inform every single interaction. The microaggressions, the need to discuss how to avoid being shot by a cop, how to police one's own behaviours and tones (don't be too white, but don't be ghetto). It doesn't try to gloss over or call special attention to AAVE, and does so much to normalise all aspects of black culture and life in America.
Towards the end, Thomas does an absolutely stunning job of making you feel that fear, that uncertainty, and that urgency. Her tension, pacing, and build up are perfect.
Not a lot, if I'm honest. The worst I can say is that sometimes Starr's actions and reactions felt a little unrealistic, but grief affects us all so differently. And when you add to that the outrage of injustice, the rollercoaster of teenage emotions and hormones, and nestle it in the context of a world where you have to strive not to be an 'angry black woman', it can be so understandably confusing to know how to behave. And I don't know what I would do in that situation, because I could never be in that situation because of my privilege.
The other thing that occasionally brought me out of the story was the sometimes heavy use of Tumblr slang. While I know that the wild, weird world of Tumblr is a huge part of many teens' lives, it sometimes read like she'd never delved in herself but had read about some of the things Tumblr users say.
I honestly feel like this is a book that every white person would benefit from reading. Go and get your copy now, to support banned books, diverse books, own voices, and wonderfully relevant YA literature. I'm serious it's officially required reading.