Well, as 2021 dissolves into chaos, I am just going to continue to read as many books as I can.
For my second read of 2021, I picked up The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
This book was not on my list of books to read after I get my degree, but I came across it at the bookstore while I was shopping. I had heard about the book briefly in response to the movie based on it, but had not actually looked into it. I picked it up, read the summary, and knew it had to be next on my list.
It was an excellent pick too. It has an engaging storyline with characters who are impossible not to empathize with. There were several points when I felt overwhelming emotions for what the characters were going through, whether it was teenage drama or issues well beyond what any teenager should have to comprehend and fight back against.
I think it is the reality of what Starr has to live through that gives this book such a deep impact. There are people who have seen their friends, their families, or even just someone who looks like them, killed by the police, while unarmed and simply living. The story is granted additional impact in the wake of the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others in 2020, as well as the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests.
It was this movement and uprising that spurred me to ensure that I am reading works that are written by diverse authors with diverse stories, as well as taking the time to continue my education on how our racist system is allowed to continue.
For now though, lets talk about The Hate U Give.
This novel follows Starr Carter, a sixteen year old, who is trying to exist in two very different worlds: the upper class, mostly white, school she attends and the poor black neighborhood that she lives in. At home, she gets to be a version of herself that is separated by the fact that she does not attend school in the area. She feels like the odd one out because she does not keep up to date on all the things happening there and everyone knows she attends a fancy school. At school though, she had to repress a side of herself.
Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto.Thomas, 71
Her dual worlds come crashing down one night after a party. She is getting a ride home from her childhood friend, Khalil, when the police pull them over. Khalil is unarmed and just checking that Starr is okay when the police officer shoots him in the back.
Protests turn into riots as the police officer does not face any consequences for the murder of a young unarmed man.
My neighborhood is a war zoneThomas, 139
Starr is the only surviving witness. She is the only one who can counter the narrative being released in the aftermath that Khalil was a thug, a criminal, someone deserving of death. Yet, it will take bravery that she is not sure she has.
“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr,” she says. “It means you go on even though you’re scared. And you’re doing that.”Thomas, 331
It is an amazing heartfelt story. It captures the struggle that Starr goes through in a way that not many people can imagine. I was taken on that journey alongside Starr and felt my heart break for her so many times. She has a strength that is impressive and bold. Even in her worst moments, you can understand how she reached that point.
There are also family dynamics and friendships that are called into question. There are no simple answers for Starr at any point in this novel. It is relatable in unexpected ways, while also being so outside of my frame of reference that I am not sure I will ever understand. However, I am also aware that I do not have to understand to stand with a movement trying to right wrongs.
Starr is, by no means, perfect, but she would be hard to love if she was. Instead, she takes each hurdle as they come, occasionally stumbling along the way. Her persistence though, in the face of something far bigger than her, only grows.
Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.Thomas, 154
I am in awe of the story that Angie Thomas weaved for her readers. It addresses huge issues, like racism and police brutality, by giving us a character who refuses to bow down in the face of them. I was quickly able to empathize with Starr and was pulled into the journey immediately. I felt like I was there in the moment that she saw her friend murdered, like I was in the living room with her and her family as a brick came into the window. It is a jarring, but amazing reading experience.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, especially those looking to expand their own reading experiences.
I urge you to purchase this book from a book store owned by a person of colour. Here is a list of stores in Canada and the United States that are owned by Black or Indigenous people.
She also recently released a prequel to The Hate U Give called Concrete Rose. You can find a summary for this novel here. I know I have added it to my own list.
Have you read The Hate U Give? What did you think?