By Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give is a novel that once hooked in, I did not put down. It faces big social issues including; racism, gun violence and gang warfare in ways that respect and acknowledge real life, never forgetting about reality. The novel revolves around a teenager and the fallout after one of her closest friends is shot dead by a policeman after a party. We see the main character, Starr, navigate a world of media, racial and social tension and the separation between her private school life and her home in the gang ridden suburb of Garden Heights. This novel ends up being a coming of age, with readers following a character development that ends in Starr becoming a teenager that knows what she wants and deserves as a person of this world.
A highlight of this book is undoubtedly the way it tackles social injustice in America. The book includes many big ideas that essentially revolve around a sentiment repeated in the text, 'Thug Life'. In the context of the book this essentially means, the hate that is handed out and planted in people spreads and is interpreted by our young and leads them down a path that has them struggling with ideas that only separate us. This book tackles issues with real life pop culture quotes, as 'The Hate U Give' was essentially coined by Tupac (2Pac) Shakur.
Gun violence in the book is addressed directly through police interactions and different perspectives that the book touches on in a thoughtful way, that does not shame any race or individual, but address the overall idea. The same applies for issues of racism, with Starr (the main character) dealing with institutionalized racism at a private school where she is one of two African Americans. As already mentioned, the book did not try and shame or demean any race but came from an angle of lack of overall understanding/knowledge and exposure to these issues. Social injustice was treated with respect and was not over dramatised or under represented, rather inserted throughout the book with thoughtful insight.
Another aspect of the book which became a highlight was how it dealt with mental health and other teenage issues in ways that were not patronizing or unrealistic. As a teenage girl grieving one of her closest childhood friends, we see Starr at times distraught, quiet, emotionally detached, and eventually angry. None of these emotions are uncommon or not true to life. We see moments when Starr is crying on her mum’s shoulder, freezing people out and becoming, at times, detached, but all these emotions are described with extremely tasteful, detailed accounts that do not treat mental health as something trivial or small, but makes a point of showing it is real.
I would recommend this book to a reader who has an interest in books which contain big ideas that go to the core of social and cultural divides. It is an addictive read, heavy and confronting at times, but full of thought and insight that cannot be underestimated.