Thursday, 22 March 2018

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

"I think we all wait for that one time, that one time when it ends right."

Starr remembers having ‘the talk’ with her parents – the talk every Black parent must have with their child, about what to do if you are stopped by the police.

“Starr-Starr, you do whatever they tell you to do. Keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you.”

But either her friend, Khalil, never had the talk, or he didn’t pay attention.

The Hate U Give is a fictional account of what has become an all too common story – the shooting dead of a young black man by a police officer because he was wrongly perceived as a threat.

But this time there is a witness. Starr was in the car with Khalil when they were stopped. And Starr has a voice. A voice that is going to be heard.

Everyone has an opinion about Khalil, even if they’d never heard of him before the night of the shooting. Starr’s largely Black neighbourhood is ready to explode with anger. While to the white kids at her school, he’s either a drug dealer who got what was coming, or an excuse for a protest that gets them out of class. Can anyone – even her parents, ever her best friends, even her boyfriend – understand how she feels or who Khalil really was?

The novel is replete with details that sing of lived experience. From the attitude of her Black parents, and the role of the religion, to the tightrope Starr walks between her Black neighbourhood and her mostly white school. Thomas perfectly captures that stage of adolescence when the stubborn defiance is still all there, but awareness is growing that maybe you don’t quite know everything yet.

The title comes from a line written by the rapper, Tupac. ‘The hate u give little infants f***s everyone.’ (THUG LIFE). This might sound like Larkin’s ‘The f*** you up, your mum and dad.’ But as the book shows, it has a much wider meaning too – that hurting or oppressing anyone harms the whole world.

If Ta-Nahisi Coates’ Between the World and Me is the voice of a Black parent desperate to protect their child, here is the voice of a child growing up in that world. Someone who has seen two friends die by the time their sixteen. Someone with a burning sense of injustice who wants things to change.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Orange Boy by Patrice Lawrence; Out of Heart by Irfan Master; The Mother by Yvvette Edwards; Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

Avoid If You Dislike: Depiction of the impact of violence on young lives

Perfect Accompaniment: A stack of pancakes and Cupid Shuffle by Cupid

Genre: Young Adult

Available on Amazon

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