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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (5/5)

11 Sep

I first heard of this book because of its incredible run at the top of the NYT list. Then my sister-in-law posted about it. She lives in Katy, TX which has banned the book in its schools. She got a copy of it and read it and loved it. (Seems a good soul was buying copies and filling the Free Little Libraries with them.) That was enough to get it on my TBR. Then my book club picked it and I had no excuse but to pick it up and read it. I’m so glad I got through it before the movie and while there are so many people to talk about it with.

Cover image via Goodreads

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Summary from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

I was really blown away by this book. Starr’s life is complicated and Thomas doesn’t narrow it down to just one plot line. She recognizes that there are a lot of things going on in Starr’s life and they’re all impacted by Khalil’s death. I liked how everything ran together and impacted one another though it did mean that a lot was left unfinished when the main plotline wrapped up. The characters were great and I loved how fleshed out the majority of the side characters were. Thomas set a high standard with this as a first novel. I can’t wait to see what she does in the future.

I loved all the characters in this book. Starr is brave but we see that it’s hard for her to be that way all the time. Her family loves her a lot and recognize that they’ve gone through a lot to get to where they are. Their struggles are very real and the people around them are very real. Small details like Lisa’s mother being a retired drama teacher made them all come to life even more and I adored it.

Maya and Seven were my favorite characters. I honestly can’t pick one. Maya was a great balance to Starr. She came from privilege but still dealt with people like Hailey say, the micro-aggressions that end up being very uncomfortable and rude to a minority. I liked that her perspective was worked in. Seven was a really interesting character because of his relationship to Starr, Lisa, Maverick, Kenya, and King. I loved how he protected his sisters and how he had a back-and-forth relationship with Iesha. I adored how much Lisa cared for him and took him into her family. I also loved how strong he was and how smart he was and how the utilized that to stay strong. I had a lot of respect for him and what kind of character it took to be himself.

I felt Chris was the easiest character for me to relate to. He understood the impact of what was happening around him and wanted to help but he didn’t physically fit into the group that was protesting. He was comfortable but uncomfortable at the same time. He experienced the cultural clash that Starr had lived on a daily basis. His perspective amplified how much the Carter kids had to deal with and how bicultural they had become.

Angie Thomas
Image via the National Book Foundation

I thought the opening chapters were really well written, probably the best in the book. I have to imagine that Thomas re-wrote them a number of times and I think she hit gold. Being introduced to Starr and Kenya and learning about Khalil the way we did was great and it delivered a strong punch when he died even though I’d just met his character. I thought it was impactful that we spend a lot of time with Starr in Garden Heights before seeing her in Williamson.

I felt DeVante’s storyline was a bit more than the book needed. I think someone else could have ratted on King without pulling in another character who shadowed Maverick’s path out of the King Lords. It wasn’t that I disliked DaVante’s story, I just thought it was repetitive.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Bahni Turpin. She was incredible. She had a voice or inflection for each character so it was easy to figure out who was talking. The only one I didn’t like was Hailey but I ended up disliking that character so it seemed to fit in the end. I adored the emotion she put into Starr because there were some very emotional scenes for her character. Overall, I think it was one of the better narrations I’ve heard.

This book is very timely and addresses a lot of issues going on in the US now. It made me question the way I look at minorities and challenged me to overcome the stereotypes I hold and question where they come from. Showing how unconscious bias can be deadly and how that can impact a community was really powerful. I think this should be taught in schools and I think the movie that’s about to come out will help spread this powerful message.

Writer’s Takeaway: Thomas did a great job of getting into the head of a 16-year-old girl and making it relatable to someone of a different generation and race. It was great to get her personality with her reactions to her mother and father using colloquialisms that mirror my own thoughts. I think Thomas has an amazing career ahead of her and I’m so excited to see what else she can deliver.

This was an amazing book and one I highly recommend to anyone who’s reading this. Five out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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