I don’t think I can really call this a review because all I have is outright praise for The Hate U Give. This is exactly why we need diverse books that show us the world that exists outside our own experiences, because in 2017 we haven’t come as far as we should have, and we need to be reminded of that.
Sixteen year old Starr is driving home from a party with her best friend Khalil when they are stopped by the police. She’s scared, but at twelve years old her parents gave her the talk about what to do when an officer approaches you. She knows to keep her hands visible, not to make sudden movements. But Khalil is asked to step out of the car and is searched. When he turns to ask Starr is she’s okay the officer shoots him, three times. Instead of focusing on Khalil’s senseless death, the media and the police department attempt to justify his death by alluding to his potential links with gangs and drugs, instead of the real facts- that an unarmed black teenager was shot dead.
But Starr knows what really happened, and she knew the real Khalil. Over the course of the book she discovers the power her voice has to defend her friend’s memory and her community, even when the truth might put her in danger. She doesn’t realise how brave she is. Having to be questioned by the colleagues of Officer One-Fifteen, the man who killed her friend, testifying in front of a Grand Jury, trying to maintain normality when her would has been upended twice- all at sixteen years old. Of course she’s scared. It’s not something she should have to deal with at her age, but she stands up despite that fear.
Starr’s family were a shining light. They were real. They brought humour and love in the darker moments of Starr’s life. All the undercurrents that exists in most families were there, but they were endlessly supportive of each other. Especially their parents, who were willing to adapt for their kids. The tense situation they were in might break some families, but not theirs. The level of community support and spirit that her neighbourhood had was heartwarming. They help each other without thinking about it and that’s something the media neglects to show.
I felt exhausted for her having to constantly hide facets of her self at her predominantly white school for fear of being stereotyped. She has to keep a tight reign over her emotions and when they do understandably bubble over she’s dismissed for being over-sensitive. Jokes give her friends and other students a free pass to be as insensitive and racist as they want, by disguising their comments as humour and Starr has to laugh along or be ostracised.
It’s the sense of entitlement from being born a certain skin colour and the ignorance that comes with it that are dangerous, because those flippant comments breed attitudes that divide us. In speaking out, Starr fights against those attitudes.
Sometimes you don’t realise you’re eyes are half-closed, but Starr’s story opened mine. Everyone should read this book.