Preface: this is quite possibly the best book I have ever read. You may continue.
Angie Thomas tackles the topic of police violence through the eyes of a teenage girl. Starr lost two of her best friends to gun violence by the time she’s sixteen, one by a gang drive-by, and the other by a police officer. As the only witness to her friend Kahlil’s murder, Starr must face the overwhelming pressure to testify on his behalf before a grand jury. This tragedy is the catalyst that begins to destroy the separation between her two worlds: one in which she spends her weekdays at a private, majority-white school, the other in which she calls “home,” a gang-ridden city neighborhood.
While Starr struggles to balance her two different worlds, her father’s desire to make their neighborhood a better place, her mother’s desire to move away to keep their family safe, AND the pressures of being in the spotlight, Starr’s story, though fictional, depicts many aspects of reality that hit close to home. Starr is afraid of what will happen to her is she speaks out, but knows that she has to use her voice to speak on behalf of her friend and the injustice that he faced.
As the story progresses, readers get to see how the criminal justice system and the media in our country and society skew (and even alter completely) stories before releasing them to the world. Starr’s experiences depict the struggle of getting the real story out there in situations such as hers and how industries silence and oppress the voices of minorities.
The title of this novel is derived from the rapper Tupac Shakur’s philosophy of “THUG LIFE,” which Thomas explains as “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.” This phrase ends up as a motif for the novel. Right before his murder, Kahlil explains to Starr that this phrase is really an indictment of systemic inequality and hostility: “What society gives us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out.” Essentially, what we are taught when we are children will eventually come back to haunt us as a society in the future. (For example: racism and systematic oppression and inequality.)
Throughout this riveting debut novel, Thomas utilizes Starr’s perspective to speak out about this ever-present, bone-chilling issue of police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. While I read this book, I truly connected and empathized with Starr, heartbroken that a teenage girl outlived two of her best friends. I commend Angie Thomas for shedding light on this important and current topic.
I realize that many individuals will attempt to discredit The Hate U Give and the real-life experiences Thomas fictionalizes in the book. I am not going to discuss the politics surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement (at least not in this blog post) but I encourage those who disagree to read this book, because it is possibly the most important book I have read in a very, very long time.