The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – 5/ 5 stars
This book, The Hate U Give, has forever changed me. It is an incredibly powerful story, yet it is written in straightforward language, making it accessible to anyone. I read this book faster than nearly any other book I’ve read, partly because of this straightforward language and partly because I could not stop reading it. Every time I stopped to do something else, I found my mind coming back to this storyline, trying to process and cope with what had just happened while also trying to figure out what happens next.
It’s description is accurate and lays out the general progression of what will happen next, but it did not capture the intensity of this book. I went into this book knowing that Khalil was going to die and yet, when he was killed early in the book, I found myself crying. It was not the last time I cried either. Starr lives a life no child should be asked to live, balancing race, navigating gang politics, learning now to stay safe, and recovering from tragedy and trauma. Yet, she takes much of it in stride and still lives and enjoys life. She is an amazing narrator and captures the essence of the world around her in a way that transports the reader. She is an objective narrator while also feeling the effects of the world around her. She is raw and poignant and brave. She is the perfect young adult narrator.
The description also does not capture the breadth of this book. The Hate U Give covers many issues around race and racism, but often in a subtle way, which is integrated into the story. It covers cultural differences between white and black people, but in a way in which it does not overly highlight them or shut the reader down. The Hate U Give discusses all of these in a disarming way, allowing the reader to see their own mistakes, self-reflect, and decide if and how they want to make a change. In addition, the book does not over explain concepts, sometimes not explaining them at all and allowing the context to speak for itself. Other times, Starr explains the concepts in a way in which it seems natural conversation. Thomas’s amazing writing style gives the reader the chance to learn and grow without feeling ignorant or racist, which is a true gift.
I need to point out that I am not a typical fan of YA. While I have enjoyed a few YA books, for the most part, there are two things about them that I routinely dislike: love triangles and simplistic, non-descriptive writing. This book lacked both. Yes, there is a romance, but there is no triangle, at least not for Starr. And yes, the writing is straightforward, but it is not dumbed down and even though it is told in the first person, a style I typically do not like, the narrator captures so many details, emotions, connections, understandings, well, just everything. I lived this book, and now it is my proof that both YA books and first person narratives can to better than they typically do when it comes to providing depth.
I loved that Starr’s boyfriend was the role model of healthy relationships, even though the books starts with a moment where he was not the ideal boyfriend. Yet, he is not perfect. He grows and develops and is willing to learn. He makes mistakes, but works through them, and by the end is a great example of not only what a great boyfriend is, but also a great human being. We need more characters like this in books, especially YA books.
I do not know how to do this book justice, even though I so very much want to do it justice. Some reviewers find it more challenging to review a book they do not like, but I struggle with reviewing a book I love. I do not know how to capture the essence of the book, how it conveyed to me its secrets, how it moved me to a whole different place on my journey, how it will stick with me like a memory I actually experienced, or how much I want everyone else to read it. Some books speak to the soul, but that is a deeply intimate conversation which is hard to relay to others, or at least it is for me. This book not only spoke to my soul; it changed it. I can never look at the world the same way again and I am better for it. The hype for this book is not overrated and this is definitely a must read book. It will likely be in my top five reads of the year and has already made my favorite list. I likely will read this again, something I very rarely do, and I will devour everything else Angie Thomas writes. This is an incredible novel on its own, but to then realize that it is a debut speaks volumes to the quality of Thomas’s writing. Read this book; you will not regret it.
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