September 19, 2017

the hate u give.jpg

The Hate U Give

Angie Thomas

Pub. 2017

444 pgs.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Summary / Review / TLDR / Recommended For / Issues / Themes / Grade

 


Summary

Starr Carter knows she shouldn’t have been at that party. She knows her parents will kill her if they find out. So when gunfire interrupts things, she takes the opportunity to leave with her childhood best friend, Khalil. She’s unprepared for the police officer who pulls them over for no reason, drags Khalil from the car, and shoots him three times in the back. She’s not ready to lose another best friend.

But simmering under her sorrow are fear and rage: fear of what will happen if she steps forward to testify against the officer, and rage when it seems like he will get off without even a warning. She can’t even talk to her friends at school about any of this; they think that Khalil’s drug dealing made his murder just. Her parents just want her to be safe, so they aren’t great for advice, either.

It will take a great deal of courage for Starr to do what she thinks is right. But after she’s already lost so much, does she really have it in her to risk it all?

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Review

I read literally all the time. As soon as I finish a book, I read the review, look at my calendar, and figure out where I want to put that review. I’m months ahead just in case something happens and I don’t have time or the ability to read and review a book. It also gives me a chance to figure out exactly where I want different books to go, which can be helpful when I read books that are particularly timely or so good I can’t put off posting the review.

Like this book, for example.

I finished this book on Sunday night, the first moderately quiet one after a cop in St. Louis was acquitted of the murder of a black man he pulled over. All the fear and the anxiety and helplessness that Starr felt the night after Khalil’s funeral drove home everything that was happening there, and what’s happened in the past five years or so across our country. All the points that that Thomas makes about justice and inequality really boil down to one thing: no more.

Khalil might have been a drug dealer. He might have joined a gang. He probably did things he shouldn’t have done and many more things he regretted. But the night when he got pulled over, frisked, and ultimately shot, he did nothing wrong. He hadn’t been speeding, the car had been his own, he hadn’t drawn any weapons, and he didn’t try to run. And yet the officer shot him three times. I know this is a novel, but it made me think about all those other people who have been killed at routine traffic stops. What had they done to deserve their deaths? And I don’t mean in the course of their entire lives, but right then, right there when the officer decided to fire his gun. If we say that murder is illegal, and the police are killing people who aren’t resisting, but then judges and juries are letting the police officers involved off with a warning or suspension, what kind of message is that sending about the value of human life?

Where I live, we still have issues with drugs. The dealers just happened to be white and upper-middle class. But if a police officer pulled over a white teen in my community and shot him—basically if “Khalil” had been “Kevin”—then officer would be run out of town, fired, blacklisted, and sued for basically everything he owned. The media would be thrashing that officer for overstepping his bounds, and there would be talk about seeing that this kind of thing never happened again. The officer would be in jail for the rest of his life.

Many of the messages of this book are somewhat didactic, but then, I understand why. They need to be shouted loud and clear so that they have the best chance of being understood—and I’m not saying by middle school students, either, but rather all the adults who think that what’s going on is completely acceptable. It’s the kind of book that I want to buy for every person I know so they, too, can read it. Maybe then they’ll see that something needs to be done. They’ll start to notice the implicit biases in the way news is reported. They’ll realize that shooting an unarmed kid is unjust, regardless of his skintone, background, or failings.

Characters swear throughout this book, and there are murders and violent acts. The book is tough, as tough as I imagine living the realities depicted within must be. However, certain segments would be great for discussion in class, particularly the conversations between Starr and her parents, as well as her conversations about casual racism with her friends. At the very least, you could have kids discuss this, one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“I mean it, baby. It’s not. You did everything right.”
“But sometimes right’s not good enough, huh?”
[…]
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
(153-4)

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TLDR

This book is capital-I Important. It’s the kind of book that can change the way people see the world. It’s absolutely brilliant and necessary and timely. Every. Single. Person needs to read it.

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Recommended for…

  • People who make snap judgements based on background, hometown, skin color, or for any other reason
  • People who want to understand why everyone is up in arms about cops murdering people
  • Every single person ever

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Issues

  • Alcohol Use: underage drinking at parties
  • Death: characters’ deaths are important to the plot
  • Drug Use: references to selling and using illegal drugs
  • Deceit: characters trick others
  • Lying: characters lie to others
  • Murder: characters are murdered in the book, and their murders are major plot points
  • Physical Abuse: references to physical abuse
  • Prejudice: all kinds of prejudicial and racist behaviors
  • Religion: several scenes of Christian ritual
  • Supremacy: characters behave like they’re better than others due to race or status
  • Swearing: characters swear throughout
  • Violence: characters attack one another; references to gang-related violence
  • Weapon Use: characters harm and kill others with weapons, both firearms and improvised

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Themes

  • Acceptance
  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Change vs. Tradition
  • Determination
  • Drug Abuse
  • Education
  • Family
  • Friendships
  • Grief
  • Growing Up
  • Heroism
  • Honesty
  • Justice
  • Responsibility
  • Right vs. Wrong
  • Romantic Love
  • Sports
  • Survival

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Grade

Main Character 2
Subcast 2
Setting Development 2
Exploration of Conflict 2
Satisfying Resolution 2
Consideration of Themes 2
Didactic Tone 1
Suspension of Disbelief 2
Imagery and Description 2
Compelling Storytelling 2
Author’s Style 2
Rhythm and Pace of Book 2
Mechanics (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 2
Predictability 2
Reader Enjoyment 2
Total 29/30
97%

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