“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Angie Thomas, “The Hate U Give”

 

Published: February 28, 2017 

Publisher: Balzer + Bray

Format: Paperback

Pages: 464

Rating: 4.5

This a powerful novel that speaks to the movements of our generation. Angie Thomas creates a story that is a heartbreakingly honest glimpse at the lives of black youth in the United States. The main character, Starr Carter, is at a crossroads between two very different worlds and she is constantly trying to find her footing between the two. She lives in a poor neighbourhood, where her father is persistent in living, even though it is growing increasingly unsafe. She attends a fancy suburban prep school, where she is one of the few black students. She has good friends in both of these places, and she has a supportive family, life seems to be balanced- until a tragic event shakes the worlds she thought she could harmonize.

While out driving one evening with her childhood friend, Khalil, they are pulled over by the police. Khalil is shot dead- he was unarmed. The death of Khalil becomes a national headline and everyone is wondering how this could happen. What really went down that night? Will the police officer who shot her friend be charged?

Starr cannot escape the talk surrounding Khalil’s death. No matter how much her family tries to protect her, she must choose a plan of action -be silent and hope it all goes away, or speak up for Khalil and others in her community who have been unjustly served. What Starr chooses to do could risk her life, but not doing anything could risk the safety of her community and loved ones.

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Why I Loved This Book

As a twenty something white woman living in Canada, this book provided me insight into the life of black youth in America. It was truly eye opening to the Black Lives Matter movement, and how essential it is that we listen to the voice of youth in America. While not a true story, it feels like a story straight from the news (or “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”). The political message associated with this book is timely.

The main character, Starr, is extremely relatable and entertaining. While the story does focus on mature topics, there are moments of lightheartedness and laughter, I really appreciate the rollercoaster of emotions I felt while reading this book. The whole story is believable and while it is not the ending I wanted, it is the reality of how many of these stories end.

Racism is an incredibly sensitive topic- but this book takes it on head first. Thomas does allude to the overgeneralize “white” vs “black” idea, which makes people very uncomfortable (me included). This book did cause me to check in with my “white privilege”. I truly empathize with the characters mourning the loss of Khalil and with the people fighting for his justice, but would I do it in real life? It would not be easy, but this book does clearly outline what humanity needs to do if we no longer want to read about stories like this in the weekly news.

What I Learned From This Book

I have come to a better understanding of the lives of black youth in America. Again, while not a true story, many of the gangs referred to represent real gangs in these communities. I learned that the culture of these communities is intricate, entangled and runs deep. There is a culture shift where people want to leave the gangs and strive for other more healthy opportunities, but it is difficult to do in such communities for multiple reasons.

I also now have a better appreciate for individuals, like Starr, who have to live in this middle balance of two “stereotypes”. She received hate from both sides, her community friends and her suburban prep school friends, and she really had to work to find a way to navigate these relationships.

Police brutality is a disgusting reality of the world we live in, but not all police officers are brutal. There are some wonderful, generous, giving, honest policemen and policewomen out there, and I’m glad the book notes this with Starr’s uncle. He was an essential character to show this side of the Black Lives Matter Movement, not all police are terrible and we need to acknowledge this just as we try to prevent brutal police officers from entering the profession.

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