This book was phenomenal! Hands down. I’m now in the process of trying to convince my sister to read it. (I’ll let you know if/when she does.)
Throughout the year, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it. I’ve also heard of a few readers becoming a bit overwhelmed with the subject matter resulting in them taking a short break from finishing it. I thought to myself, “Is it really that much?” The answer was obvious: read it for yourself. So I did. This book seized my attention, didn’t let go until the end and then it left me wondering, “what’s next?” So ladies and gents, I present to you my spoiler-free review of:
Starr Carter is a sixteen year old black girl who lives in Garden Heights, a poor, predominantly black neighborhood and goes to Williamson, a predominantly white, private school. Her life changes when she witnesses the murder of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Through the investigation and the trauma, Starr’s two lives begin to collide and she must make a choice. Take a risk and speak up or stay silent and protect herself.
Fun facts about this book:
- This book was inspired by the issues of racism, police brutality, the #BlackLivesMatter movement and Tupac.
- The title comes from Tupac’s “THUG LIFE” tattoo which stands for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F—s Everyone.”
- The book came out on the last day of Black History Month.
These facts alone captured my interest. It’s not very often that subjects like #BlackLivesMatter, police brutality and Tupac become incorporated into mainstream YA contemporary fiction.
Prior to reading this book, I prepared myself to be flooded with the issue of death, the murder of black people, lack of justice, racism and all of the hurt and pain that goes with it. All of that was included but it didn’t feel like a flood of constant negatives. To add more depth, complexity and relief, we get a chance to see what Starr’s life is like outside the trauma. We meet her parents, her brothers, her Uncle and Aunt, her grandmother, her friends and her boyfriend. We also get to see what her family life and relationships are like. To me, that inclusion alone made her seem like a friend rather than a fictional character.
Our narration and point of view is that of Starr’s. The author writes the story in a way that makes you feel as if you are moving through Starr’s life with her while seeing into her thoughts and feelings. She’s transparent with how she feels and what her thoughts are of happenings around her. The book is definitely plot-driven with some character-driven aspects mixed in. I feel that this mix makes the pacing just right; not too fast, not too slow.
Even though Starr is narrating the story, I got glimpses of back-stories and change (or lack thereof) in all of the characters. We see how past and presents events affect most of the characters. We get to see a little bit of how the current events affect characters of different ages, races and backgrounds.
While reading this book, I had a mix of emotions: happy, sad, anger, disbelief, fangirl, nostalgia, etc. I appreciated that fact that whenever there was a tense or a highly emotional moment, there were appropriately timed moments of comic relief.
The book also did a great job of showing and briefly explaining many aspects of black culture, dropping little history facts and introducing the reader to topics that black people face such as interracial relationships, questions about “black names”, living in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood versus a multiracial or predominantly white, middle-class neighborhood. (The ‘hood vs. the suburbs.) I also liked how Angie Thomas showed something that’s rarely seen in the media, tv shows, movies, or books: a black father publicly and outwardly showing love and affection for his sons as well as mentorship for other young black males that need it.
I knew what the outcome of the situation was going to be. Anyone who’s been paying attention to current events (and history in general), especially Black people, will know what the outcome of the story will be. However, the author doesn’t end the book on that note. The book ended on a note that aims to make the reader feel optimistic, inspired, happy, enlightened and persistent.
Okay. Cons. There aren’t any major cons but there are some things that stuck out to me in a different way. At first I felt that the author’s portrayal of how the black characters spoke was a little over the top. And for a little bit, it annoyed me. But as I continued to read, I got used to it and began to see that was just a representation of how those characters and some people speak. It was not an overall representation of how all black people speak. I also wish that there was an epilogue or something at the end that said how the characters were doing six months or a year after the time of the last chapter.
Rating and Recommendations
Overall, I give this book a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Out of all of the books that I have read in my life, this is one of the few books that I believe that everyone should read at some point in their lives. (Preferably sooner than later.) However, I want to give a couple of warnings:
- If you (particularly fellow black people) are at the point where you’re feeling overwhelmed with racism and police brutality, I still recommend that you read this book but only at a time when you are mentally prepared.
- There’s a lot of swearing. If you’re the kind of person that’s sensitive to that, be prepared.
Other than that, this is a fantastic book. It left me feeling inspired to take more of an open stand for something and to keep writing my story. I’m excited for the movie and to see what else Angie Thomas may write.
If you want to read or listen to the book here’s where you can buy or borrow it out: