Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
**No spoilers. 5 stars on Amazon; 4.9 stars in my heart
Alright, so, I read this book a while ago now, before I was ever blogging, before I was ever broadly sharing my thoughts and feelings, and I loved it. But by the time I started Things I’m Thinking, I decided not to write about it, because everyone loves it, it’s already signed movie rights, we all know it’s amazing.
Then I thought about it this way:
If you’re having a dinner party, and you cook the entire day, and everyone tells you how amazing the food is except your boyfriend, and then at the end of the night he says, “Well, I didn’t say anything about how amazing the food is because everyone else already said it, so you already knew,” do you just say, “Oh, ok, cool”? NO. You want to smack him in the throat.
Well, I’m anti-smacking/hitting/violence in general so let’s not use all the praise this book has already gotten as an excuse to not give it some more.
For those of you who don’t know, it’s time that you did know that The Hate U Give is a young adult novel written by Angie Thomas. My last name is Thomas, too, but no, Angie and I are not related. I don’t think. Although, we are both YA writers and she is from Mississippi and I have family in Mississippi and she does look a lot like some people on my dad’s side of the family…(Angie, let me know if you wanna team up to figure this one out).
But, yeah, for now we’re going with the (somewhat disappointing) fact that Angie and I are not related, and she’s written this dope YA novel called The Hate U Give. It’s about a high-school-aged black girl named Starr, who watches her black, male, unarmed friend get shot and killed by a police officer at a traffic stop one night. And then the rest of the book is about how she feels about it, how her family feels about it, how the community feels about it, how the friends who know and the friends who “can’t” know feel about it, and – eventually – what Starr decides to do about it.
One of my favorite reviews on the back of the book is from the Huffington Post. They say, “Read Starr’s story because it’s important, but also read it…because it’s a damn good book.” First and foremost, that’s what I want you to know: that it’s timely, yes. That it’s a story that happens too much and deserves a place in literature, yes. But despite those things, it’s just good. And not just good if you’re black.
It’s just. Good.
So, part of what I love about this book is that it’s thick; the kind of thick that I never really read growing up, because that kind of thickness was primarily reserved for Fantasy and Sci-Fi books that I was not reading. (No, I didn’t read Harry Potter. But I’ve done a lot of other great things in my life so please don’t cancel me just yet.) Finally, I get to be one of the people carrying around a big ol’ thick book! I was always moderately jealous of those kids.
The other thing I love about this book is that, once you’re in it, the characters are so real. I absolutely love when I don’t feel like I’m just reading dialogue, but like I’m actually hearing dialogue, and the person Starr gets to be at home vs. the person she has to be at school, Starr’s parents, her friends…they all sound so real. And I can’t wait to hear them talking in the movie.
The next thing I love about this book is how relatable it is, no matter what your experience. I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like Starr’s, but I am very familiar with being one of barely-any black kids in my schools. I am very familiar with the moments when it doesn’t matter and the moments when it really, really feels like it does. I am familiar with not sharing everything about the music you listen to at home or the macaroni and cheese you have for Thanksgiving so that – best case scenario – you don’t have to explain, and – worst case – you don’t have to defend.
But we ALL know what it feels like to lose somebody when we weren’t ready, even if it is devoid the tragedy of what Starr had to witness. We ALL know how it feels to not feel like we can be our whole selves. We ALL know what it’s like to be different, somehow. Scared, somehow. Aware of what’s right but not sure if we’re strong enough to do the righting. This book takes a story that needs to be told and wraps it into a present of loveliness that’s inclusive enough for any person to find a home in it.
And one more thing I really like about this book: it’s fiction. But it’s also not. It’s Starr’s story but, in a way, it’s also all of ours. Movements are important. Movements change the world. But we can’t let the frequency of the events or reasons that caused the movement desensitize us to the realities that led to the need for us to start moving in the first place. This book reminds anyone who might have forgotten that we have to keep moving. We have to keep talking. We have to keep pushing, and caring, and giving a shit. This book helps put more than just a face to the abuse of black and brown bodies – the news puts faces to these stories all the time – but this book helps put a life to those stories. Lives that will never be the same, and one that’s gone forever.
So, to simplify, it’s a great book. Read it. Tell your friends about it. And the next time you know something is amazing but everyone else has already said so, still make sure you say so, too.