The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

ecgordon
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ecgordon
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Joined: July 28th, 2000, 7:08 am

July 1st, 2018, 3:14 pm #1

Since the site is devoted to SF/F/H I won't be reviewing this book there, but I did want to talk about it. I've been considering a WordPress account to deal with non-genre things. Not sure if that's ever gonna happen, but this would be an ideal topic for that.

The Hate U Give is the debut novel from Angie Thomas, who is from Jackson, Mississippi. I'm pretty sure that's not where the story is set. I suppose it's just a generic urban area, but I got the impression it might be New Jersey. The title comes from Tupac's Thug Life. I'm not into rap, so was unaware that was intended as an acronym, meaning "The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone," the hate instilled in people at a young age can only spawn hatred and hurt for everyone later. Starr Carter lives in Garden Heights, which she knows is a ghetto but she's always defensive about that when anyone else uses that term. Her father is an ex-con who straightened out his life after a 3-year sentence for which he took the fall for his gang leader. He now runs a grocery store, where Starr and her half-brother occasionally work. Starr is 16, half-brother Seven is a year or two older, younger brother Sekani is 9. They all attend the prestigious Williamson Prep Academy instead of Garden Heights High School. Their father maintains the superior education they will receive there is enough, he refuses to move from the community he hopes to rebuild and make better for them. That is, until events compel him to change his mind.

Starr and Khalil had been friends since childhood. His grandmother had babysat her while her mother worked and went to school when her father was in prison. They had gone their separate ways and had not had contact for several months, when she encounters him at a spring break party. They flee the party when gang members clash, then are randomly stopped by a policeman, who claims a tail light was out. They both do everything their parents had always taught them, stay calm, keep hands visible, don't talk back or resist in any way. Khalil is still shot and killed. Other than the cop, Starr is the only witness. I think you can imagine the rest of the story from that, based on what has happened numerous times in the real world lately. The strength of the story is Starr's conviction that her friend's death was wrong, but her anxiety and fears almost overcome her pursuit for truth and justice. She not only has to fear the police and the courts when they question her version of events, but also the gang for which Khalil had been selling drugs. She later learns he was not an official member of the gang, which happens to be the same her father was a part of, but that he was selling in order to pay back a debt his mother owed. No weapons or drugs were found in his car, but the fact he could be tied to a gang and drugs was enough to turn the media against him and for support of the official police version.

In the midst of all that drama, she also has to deal with her affluent white friends at school, and her white boyfriend, of whom her parents are yet unaware. This is a timely and relevant story, and while most of the plot is predictable and depressing, it is still compelling and dramatically tense, and it does end on a hopeful note. I don't know if we can expect a sequel to Starr's story, but this book is getting a film adaptation, due for release in October. Amandla Stenberg (Rue in The Hunger Games) plays Starr, with her parents portrayed by Russell Hornsby (Grimm) and Regina Hall (Black-ish, Insecure). Rapper/Actor Common plays her Uncle Carlos, a policeman, Anthony Mackie (the MCU's Sam Wilson/Falcon) is the gang leader King, with Issa Rae (Insecure) as a community activist and lawyer who helps Starr prepare for her grand jury testimony.

I think it is a balanced look at the issue from many perspectives, but most importantly from the view of communities damaged by a system predominately controlled by whites. Not just policing, but also education and economics. Everyone should read it, but as with many other important works, the ones who most need to read it won't bother, and in fact will lobby strongly against it. Just yesterday, I saw a link to an article about police organizations trying to get schools to ban the book from required reading. If I could afford it I'd buy up all the copies and hand them out on street corners.
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