Book Review: The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

 

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. 

I received this copy from the publishers for an honest review.

There has been lots of well-deserved hype, across Instagram and Twitter, around this debut novel from Angie Thomas. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this important story reveals how prevalent prejudice still is in 21st Century America. Angie Thomas writes with the clarity of direct experience and the intention of spreading conscious change.

Growing up in a neighbourhood that was notorious for all the wrong reasons, a young Angie Thomas was taught to be mindful of the police – a system that is entrusted to protect but has been known to do the opposite. In her press release, Angie tells of the moment she realised prejudice was still a reality: Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice. All unarmed black men. All shot by police officers. All robbed of the right to life by the people who were meant to protect them. In writing The Hate You Give, Angie Thomas gives a voice to all the kids from ‘The Gardens’ of this world, poignantly encouraging them to be ‘roses that grow in concrete.’

The Hate You Give tells the story of Starr, a sixteen-year-old girl living in a poor inner-city neighbourhood where violence between gang members is prevalent. Wanting a better life for their daughter, her parents send her to a predominantly ‘white’ school in the suburbs where she meets her boyfriend, Chris, and best friends Maya and Hailey. Struggling to find balance between these two paradoxical lifestyles, Starr finds herself witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed friend, Khalil, by a white police officer.

This event, which happens fairly early on in the novel, is a shocking start to what, unapologetically, unravels into an exploration of political activism and what it means to use your voice for justice. Reading this book will make you angry, frustrated and confused as to how on earth we have reached 2017 with racial prejudice still present in society. Our protagonist, Starr, struggles to deal with these prejudices throughout the novel, sending a powerfully empathetic message to us as readers. Should she have a white boyfriend? What if her suburban school friends find out she was with Khalil when he was shot? What will people think of her? Will anyone believe her? 

‘If it’s revealed that I was in the car, what will that make me? The thug ghetto girl with the dug dealer? What will my teachers think about me? My friends? The whole fucking world, possibly?’

This is a brave, powerful and utterly unforgettable book that will, undeniably, empower change in all who read it. Hopefully then, events like the one in this story will become history.

‘Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.’

Rating: 5/5

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