Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


Grace Morton

Read The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas. Read it. I don’t care if you don’t read for fun, I don’t care if you’re busy. Read it. It may very well be one of the most important YA novels ever written. It’s timely, meaningful, and realistic, as well as heartfelt and beautifully written. The casual dialogue, the stunning narration, and the references to rap music, cool sneakers and 90’s movies make Starr, the narrator, and her friends seem overwhelmingly real. Overwhelmingly real applies just as easily to the subject matter. The Hate U Give (from Tupac Shakur) is the story of Starr Carter, a 16 year old who is the only witness when a cop kills her friend Khalil. He was unarmed.

The story is brilliantly constructed: it starts with a description of this horrific incident, then explores Starr’s history with Khalil, and with violence in her neighborhood. She and Khalil were friends while her father was imprisoned, while his mother was an addict, and when a random shooting killed another friend of theirs at age ten. They grew apart when Starr went to a mostly-white school about an hour away. After the shooting, Starr keeps her role as witness secret from all but her family and the authorities, because she’s scared of death threats and of being seen as different from the kids at her school. She’s already treated differently because she’s black and not from the area, and she struggles with how she and her neighborhood would be perceived if they knew that both her best friends had been murdered before her eyes. At the same time, she knows she has to speak up about Khalil, to make sure the cop who killed him is brought to justice. Ultimately, The Hate U Give is a story about a girl who wants to do the right thing, despite the consequences.

Alternate cover design

Khalil’s story is one we’ve seen play out countless times in the real world. Tamir Rice was 12 years old. Trayvon Martin, 17. Jordan Edwards, 15, just a couple of weeks ago. In all these cases, they were unarmed. In all these cases, their murderers did not serve time in prison. The long history of police brutality against black people in America has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement, a movement that largely inspired The Hate U Give.

Angie Thomas said in an interview with NY Magazine, “If you said the words “black lives matter” to 30 people, you’d get 30 different reactions”. According to Pew Research Center about 42% of you don’t understand the movement very well. I know for a fact that some folks online were recently bashing my church for being “anti-cop”, and for “promoting a terrorist organization” because of our BLM banner. I’m not going to list all the reasons why that’s incorrect, instead, here’s the official website. Read it all. Hey, the first two sentences of this article were “Read this”. I’m just continuing a trend. I’ll list a few reasons though.

Black Lives Matter is not a hate group. It is a movement advocating for love, equality, and justice. It is a response to systematic violence and dehumanization. It is a statement of the inherent worth of black people everywhere, a statement that should be so obvious. Of course black lives matter, because everyone’s life matters, but due to the prevailing racism in our society, Black Lives Matter serves as a reminder. To anyone who would counter with “Why not say ‘all lives matter’ then?”: saying “All Lives Matter” distracts from and often dismisses issues that specifically face black people.

Don’t take this from me, a white girl writing a rambling book review. Take it from the founders of BLM.  Read books by authors like Angie Thomas. Listen to people who wish to share their experiences. Learn all you can. Read The Hate U Give. Emphasize with Starr and Khalil, and do your best to make sure that what happened to them stops happening. There’s no quick and easy way to eradicate racism, internalized or systematic, but understanding is the first step. And as a first step of that first step, I offer you The Hate U Give. Read it, read it, read it.