“The Hate U Give” is a ‘stop-what-you’re-reading-and-read-this‘ debut novel by Angie Thomas (and if the National Book Award Longlist accolade is any indication, others agree!)
Thomas tells the story of Starr, a sixteen year old girl from “the ghetto” (her words, not mine) who is living in two very distinct worlds. She resides in Garden Heights, a neighborhood better known for its gangbangers and “King Lords” than the typical residents who run the corner store (Starr’s dad, Mav, has owned theirs for years) or the local pharmacy. But Starr spends most of her day at an up-town private school (Williamson) in the suburbs, a 45-minute commute from her home in Garden Heights, where she transfers after her best friend is murdered in a drive-by shooting when they were only 10 years old. It’s no secret (so no spoilers) that Starr witnesses the murder of her other childhood best friend and that tragic event is the catalyst that Thomas leverages to guide us further into the machinations of both Starr’s psyche and the social psyche of the world around her (including the press, her family, the folks of Garden Heights and her peers at Williamson.)
It is through this kaleidoscope that Thomas displays her talents as an author. I won’t divulge too much more of the plot, but suffice it to say that Thomas does an excellent job at capturing the heart of the “lives matter” movement (I intentionally do not say black lives, as Thomas points out that all lives matter) in a way that reaches readers who, by sheer virtue of their racial identity, cannot understand organically. Moreover, the novel is not written in a way that feels preach-y, but rather in a way that facilitates true understanding of the pain inflicted upon the families and communities in the crosshairs as well as the more global social consequences. Thomas does a thoughtful and effective job at conveying the inherent judgment and preconceptions of “others”–whether that is Starr’s mostly-white/Asian schoolmates, her white boyfriend, her neighborhood friends, etc., and in doing so gives us a robust and approachable way of thinking about these issues. There is a character’s point of view from which every reader can relate.
Some of the reviews proclaimed that this book should be required reading for high school students and I wholeheartedly agree. There is much more meaty material here to be dissected and more discourse to be had. But I’ll leave you with this: While my reading of this book was originally inspired by Black History Month, this author and her novel are so much more than that. It is a novel that sparks curiosity, thought and discussion that we need to be having as a society in current times. Thomas shows us that she can function as a mediator/facilitator of these important discussions and I hope that everyone *does* take the time to read this book.
If I’m sounding too academic, please forgive me and do not skip this book. Thomas’ novel provides a holistic, positive, uplifting message through tragic events and misunderstandings that are worth making time for.
Kudos Ms. Thomas and thank you for writing this book!