“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
In the books I’ve come across – or any storytelling for that matter – none of them have evoked such an emotional response from me as The Hate U Give did. It’s not only a book that speaks out about political or social issues as a reflection of today’s time, but also a wonderful YA story that focuses on close-knit family and the relatable life of a teenager, interweaving the seriousness and devastating story of something real with seamless laugh-out-loud jokes and warmhearted values that create the balance. Without doubt or hesitation I’d recommend this to all readers.
Thomas is unapologetic when telling Starr’s story, who witness the murder of her friend, Khalil, an unarmed black man killed by a white cop. In the aftermath, she faces the gut-wrenching effects of grief, the media’s portrayed of the incident, and in what ways society perceives it. Police brutality, racial bias, micro-aggressions in everyday life, and white privilege are the main things as a focus, not only regarding the shooting but within the community and character relationships. It shone a light on these things, making me take a step back and further recognise the privilege that I, as a white person, have.
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
It is, at heart, a character-driven story. If you don’t have interesting, three-dimensional characters – even with the best plot ever – the story won’t appeal to me. The Carter family are fun, caring, and devoted, coming together in times of struggle and pain, naturally making me root from them with each page I read. Their relationships were non-toxic, unlike some in Starr’s other areas of life, such as the supposed friend, Hailey, who is white. Racism is blatant in these situations too, Hailey using the micro-aggression and stereotype about black people loving fried chicken and then refusing to apologise afterwards, bringing about the clear ignorance and the topic about how you can still be racist even if you have POC family or friends. That racism and bias filters into the media and society, specifically white people, with how they see Khalil as a thug, whereas the white cop is treated as the victim.
As mentioned before, it balances out with the lighthearted moments, even with the smallest of details, including Starr getting two forehead kisses from her Uncle Carlos, or having a laugh with her dad when he calls her white boyfriend “plain-ass Chris.” Most of all it brings about hope; despite the bleak theme and the horror of how similar it is to real life, it remains optimistic, trusting that things will change even when it feels impossible. Those times, along with the distressing times, made me emotional. More so when it came to a page that listed the real-life victims, such as Tamir Rice and Sandra Bland, who were murdered and failed by the justice system. It made me think that POC shouldn’t have to go to these lengths to be heard and listened to, but then they wouldn’t have to if they stopped being murdered.
“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.”
I’m glad to have finally read The Hate U Give, not only encouraging me to buy more diverse and #ownvoices books, but also wait for the future works from Thomas. With every book Thomas writes and publishes, I’ll be there to read them.