For someone who doesn’t quite like YA as a genre, I seem to read a lot of it. “The Hate You Give” was all the buzz last year and I decided to get in on the action and see for myself. 16 year old Starr Carter is living two lives. One in the poor neighborhood that she lives in and another in the private school she goes to, across town. The neighborhood comes with a different kind of lifestyle from the one the people she goes to school with have. Her neighborhood has drugs, gangs and Starr has already witnessed the murder of a little girl in a drive-by, when she was younger.
Unfortunately, Starr gets to witness another murder when a white cop fatally shoots her unarmed best friend while she was in the car. The book is about the aftermath of dealing with the trauma of witnessing something of that magnitude and how there are so many angles to it and it is really such an unfortunate thing that is a reality in our country today.
It is timely, given the climate of the country right now but it is also a relief that the book was well written and able to convey it’s message in a simple way. What I liked about the book was how it was just relatable and human. Thomas does write the book as people would talk in real life. Meaning she didn’t edit for correct grammar and the characters who speak in slang were written exactly that way. I can see how this could be distracting but I felt it added to the realism of the book’s topic.
Another thing Thomas did well was capturing the conflict Starr felt within depending on who she was hanging out with. For many of us African American adults, we recognize that we have to put on a different face/mask at our place of work vs. when we are with our people. Trying to see if it is a justification or if you are indeed being a sell out is something most black people deal with everyday. Or dealing with the little remarks from her white best friend who sometimes thought she talked about the “race thing” too much or made seemingly harmless (but slightly) racist comments to their Asian friend.
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
The quote above is one that encapsulates the struggle Starr feels when she is still processing and is not ready to speak on what happens. Her community feels like she needs to stand up for them but they don’t understand that she is dealing with a heavy trauma. Yes, we should always do the right thing but at what point do we draw the line between doing what’s right for others and self preservation for your own sanity?
Overall, I recommend this book and think that it does a good job of telling a message to teenagers but still a good read for adults. My gripe with most YA books is how juvenile they come across but I didn’t get that vibe with this book. It was a heartbreaking story told honestly without coming off as too preachy. Discovering where the title of the book comes from was also a little nugget of discovery.
P.S In case you missed it in our Books to Movies post, this book is being turned into a movie with Amandla Stenberg as Starr.