If you look at the title on the cover a different way, The Hate U Give is an acronym for THUG. And the full description is “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody”. Starr Carter is a teenager who goes to a pristine high school where she’s only one of two black students who enroll there. She’s dating a nice white guy named Chris, and they’re pretty happy. All’s...somewhat fine. But she lives in Garden Heights, a title that sounds quaint enough but on the surface is the slums, the ghettos. And yes, the inhabitants are all black. This is where Starr and her two brothers, Seven and Sekani, grew up, as well as where she saw her childhood friend Natasha gunned down back when they were just kids. Now it’s just her and her friend Khalil in this special squad who worshipped Harry Potter. But an innocent fandom like that is going to take a back seat after a party one night goes awry, and Starr and Khalil are stopped on their way out of the party by a white police officer. And despite obeying the officer, he shoots Khalil in the chest and holds Starr to gunpoint. Being the only one besides the officer who was there, some people believe Starr should come out and speak up, as the rest of the community is rioting, sick of always being treated like they are all dangerous and murderous. People are now arguing the actions of the event and we now have a war waged in this contemporary debut.
Everything in every page of The Hate U Give is so unforgettable and truthful. Whenever a black character was talking in the slang implemented from the way they grew up, even though I have not a slang muscle in my body, I felt like I was not William McGinn but Starr Carter. The poetry of the special English is not something you can just read up on and then write a book around. You have to really have experience in that world, and you also need the talent to bring outsiders right in.
Making Starr worried and moving her actions at a slow, concentrated pace was a gamble. Some readers will criticize a book of having a big section of pages that don’t have to do with the main conflict of the story; in this case, protesting and making a name for yourself and getting the word out about corruption. Oh, but don’t worry. Angie Thomas has plenty of that here. She just has a protagonist that is worried about speaking out and she rightfully is. She’s scared of how the press and police would treat her, and because of the bad reputation being stirred around about Khalil. And I didn’t need to have the talk about being scared of police officers. I was never told I was a minority growing up that was going to be judged. I didn’t have to grow up worried about being shot. The idea that not just Starr, but pretty much every dark-skinned individual living in a majority-white community has to live with that kind of fear every minute of every day of their lives is the most soul-crushing thing I can think of. Words I give in this review can’t give a situation like that justice. Speaking out, and demanding change, or in this case, publishing a book about it, fiction or not, is what will change the conversation.
I won’t spoil too much, but drug dealing is also a large part of this book. No one of Starr’s family is a drug dealer or criminal but her friend Kenya’s father King, who has a long-standing feud between Starr’s father, Maverick, is. Boy, he is. And King is an authority figure of his own around the community big-time. But even though King is clearly the person not to root for, within this novel it seems everyone in Garden Heights has had to survive cataclysms to become who they are, so even though it’s not talked about, really, I’m sure King was a nice person once. Drug dealing is one of the most serious issues in the world today. I know I might sound like I’m reviewing a non-fiction book, but the truthfulness and in-unison engagement factor just make it a fiction book as close as it can get to realism. Drugs cause addictions, injuries, violence and death, and when in rogue hands, is almost impossible to determine if safe for use or not. But Angie Thomas displays it plain and simple: People outside of Garden Heights don’t usually allow people from that community to have jobs to pay for school and food. So what are they supposed to do if the world doesn’t allow them any other option? And then, when they do deal drugs, if they’re caught, there’s no way ever in the rest of their life will they ever have a shot of achieving their dream job. I see drug dealing almost like a black market economy that rebels against a corrupt or incompetent government, and I believe everyone who has ever dealt drugs in their life deserves to give their story of why.
Generally, I’ve noticed that an African stereotype of a family is a dysfunctional, profanic and sometimes even abusive one, primarily aimed at the overprotecting and unadaptable father. Read this novel. POW! That idea’s no more! The Carter family is one of the most realistic and imperfect yet loving families that have ever graced paper with ink. Maverick has opinions that can be harmful in some situations but he has valid reasons for them. And he even double-thinks some of his thoughts instead of simply being adamant, and it would’ve been so easy to write him like that. I put it this way: When Khalil is killed, he doesn’t believe the family should move out of Garden Heights to a safer place because they would be abandoning the community as it’s crumbling and they wouldn’t be making a difference and people would think of them as deserters. He also has no idea Starr is dating Chris, not believing in interracial couples. It’s not fully explained but I suspect it’s because of his history of seeing dysfunction, distrust and sometimes disgust between two people of opposite race. It makes me sad that we live in a world where some people have to think that way for that one fundamental, but we do.
As the days go by going more and more closer to the court verdict of the crime, I couldn’t put the book down ever. I read it in just three days over an incredibly busy schedule and reading it all over again I wouldn’t mind at all. It never wastes any moments, half the time bringing up serious issues and the other half sharing with us the intriguing characters, such as the politician who wants to help star, the Garden Heights cake baker, Starr’s Uncle Carlos, Starr’s two friends Hailey and Maya, Chris (who I feel ends up with some of the best development)...even the Carter’s pit bull dog Brickz is as complex as a statue of Martin Luther King Jr. himself. And that ending...ooh, that ending...I had shivers down my spine when finishing the last page, and thought to myself all the different ways this book could’ve ended if something different led to another different thing.
The book was just published last year, and already a movie is in production with the amazing Amandla Stenberg as Starr, with a 2019 release date. I can hardly wait! But I doubt it will be as good as the hardcover version. The Hate U Give is the book to beat for best one I’ve read in 2018!