The Hate U Give was chosen as one of Diverse Book Club’s September books, and I’m so glad because it finally gave me the push I needed to read this highly praised YA title. My review is part book review, part social discussion because I can’t talk about one without talking about the other.
From the back cover:
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give is a YA novel that is being talked about everywhere and I can see why! Any novel that focuses on important subject matter, highlights the wrongs of today’s society, should be read and spoken about.
It was the humour in the early pages that pulled me into this novel:
“No lie, every time a sneaker is cleaned improperly, a kitten dies.”
As a fellow trainer freak, I relate 100% to that statement, all my trainers are in mint condition, still kept in their original boxes when I’m not wearing them. Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about humour and trainers when there’s a much more important subject in this book – as a main protagonist much younger than I am, it immediately allowed me to identify with Starr; this is fiction but it made Starr ‘real’ to me, and if the circumstances were different, I could have been her. And I think in this novel you need to feel a connection to Starr, even if it starts with a pair of trainers!
As I continued reading this novel, there was so much truth in it:
“When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the birds and the bees […] The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.”
As sad as that is, that’s the reality of the society we live in today. Young black boys and girls must be warned that police do not only ‘serve and protect’.
What I’m finding hard, as I sit hear writing this review, is to focus on the novel itself, rather than the social/race discussions this book creates. At times, this book made me sad, angry, determined, a whole range of emotions.
When I finished this novel, I had to ask myself, do I review this objectively or subjectively, so here’s a bit of both. Objectively, this is a YA novel and for its target audience, I cannot fault it. Though the subject matter is difficult, it’s easy to read, in the sense that the language is accessible to a younger reading audience. Subjectively, I wish this was an adult novel, written for an older audience, so the themes could run deeper and the subject matter explored in more depth. At times, I felt my anger wasn’t reflected on the pages and that is why I mentioned earlier how important it was for me to connect with Starr. To a younger reading audience, this should be mandatory reading material and I’m sure there are many young black girls that relate to Starr 100% and even felt Starr said and did what they want to, made them feel empowered.
I just want to touch on one subject mentioned in this novel – riots. I like that these featured in the novel because riots are happening on our streets. Please don’t just condemn them but try to understand them. When I was at university, I wrote my dissertation on the 2011 London riots – conducting the research opened my eyes to a lot of things and so I want to stress the need to not condemn things you don’t understand – it’s so much more than “mob mentality” – I’m not saying I agree with rioting but I understand why people riot and I believe people will continue to riot until the inequalities and injustices are addressed, and I don’t just mean at ‘street level.’ See, I told you I run the risk of starting social discussions! So, I’ll hush and quote one of my favourite quotes: “a riot is the language of the unheard” – Martin Luther King Jr.
While I reign myself back into this novel specifically, I hope you can see the power of this novel, the discussions it starts. I can’t express in words the sadness I feel at these senseless killings of black people and I don’t pretend to know how to fix society but if this book gets even a few people talking, maybe even changes someone’s prejudices, then it’s a raging success because Black Lives Matter and we need to not shy away from this topic.