I am back today with another book review that I just had to write. This entire post is spoiler-free – only touching on the basic plot, characters, writing-style and my overall star-rating. On August 27th (yesterday) I attended Angie Thomas’s “YA and Activism” event at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival. She gave an emotional and inspiring keynote speech inspired by the Black Lives Movement, racism and her own experiences with discrimination. I cannot even begin to describe how grateful I am to have witnessed this talk. It gave what I thought to be an already incredible book, so much more meaning. I hope by the end of this review, you are moved to pick it up and read it yourself…
In this heart-wrenching story, we follow 16 year old Starr Carter, an African American teenager who lives in the poor neighbourhood of Garden Heights but attends the prestigious Williamson Prep on a scholarship. One evening, she attends a party and runs into Khalil, her childhood best friend. A dangerous fight breaks out forcing Khalil and Starr to escape in his car. On the drive home, Khalil is pulled over by a white policeman – and despite being unarmed or having done anything wrong – is fatally shot. Starr witnesses the entire event and it changes her forever. She finds herself thrust into a world full of injustice that could endanger her life just by what she does and doesn’t say.
I experienced so many emotions whilst reading this novel. Mainly, sadness. It made me realise that I have truly lived a privileged existence. Not once have I ever struggled with money nor been a victim of racial discrimination. Never have I been judged for the colour of my skin or threatened because of who I am. I cried so much learning about the nature of police brutality. It was all just so unfair. This book made me want to help but it also made me feel helpless when I realised there wasn’t much I could do aside from spreading this important message. It also made me want to read more books on the subject so I could educate myself on a world I’ve never had to grow up in…
There are many wonderful characters in The Hate U Give so I will just name the main ones:
– Starr: Our protagonist is a sweet teenage girl struggling with her identity as she moves between her poor neighbourhood and rich school. Throughout this story, we witness so much character development as Starr learns to become comfortable in her own skin as well as proud of her heritage. In the beginning, she does her best to keep both diverse worlds separate but as the book progresses, Starr sees that unity is the key to a whole heart. I love how flawed and real she was. Her narration highlighted honest insecurities and deep fears. I have no doubt Starr is based off of a young Angie Thomas. This really shone through in her speech.
– Khalil: Although Khalil is not in this book for very long, we learn a lot more about him after his death. He was a really good kid at heart and extremely loyal. From the beginning, Khalil was Starr’s best friend and they had both worked together in her father’s grocery store. They had also witnessed another friend, Natasha, get shot by gang members when they were little. Khalil was forced to grow up at a young age and protect his family. His murder paves the way for radical change.
– Maverick – “Daddy”: Starr’s father plays a very important role in this story. He is an ex-con released from jail who runs a grocery store in Garden Heights. Despite his criminal background, he is a loving father to his children who fights tooth and nail to keep them safe. We learn a lot about his past and why he became the man he did. He also undergoes major character development.
– Lisa – “Momma”: Starr’s mother is a caring nurse and woman. She has a really cheeky side with a wicked sense of humour. I really loved the way she constantly supported Starr during the story and knew exactly what to say at the right times. There is a really deep love and understanding between Lisa and Maverick. Despite everything they have gone through, the Carter family’s bond is strong.
– Seven & Sekani: Seven is Starr’s older half-brother and Sekani is her little brother. What I loved about Seven was his loyalty. His father is Maverick but his mother, Iesha, is a selfish woman involved with King (a ruthless leader of the King Lord gang). He spends most of his time with the Carter family and takes care of Starr in a true brotherly way. Sekani on the other hand is a little boy, obsessed with selfies and being a pest to Starr.
Uncle Carlos: Carlos is Starr’s uncle and brother to Lisa but he is also a strong father figure to the Carter children in this story. He spent a lot of time raising them whilst Maverick was in jail and loves them as if they were his own. Carlos is a cop who works with the officer that shot Khalil. He lives in the safer suburbs with his wife Pam and their little children.
Chris: Chris is Starr’s white boyfriend at Williamson Prep. They share a love for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and stylish Jordan’s (shoes). He is really funny, sweet and adoring of Starr. Maverick is not happy with Starr dating someone not of colour so she keeps their relationship a secret. Chris plays an integral role in Starr’s development as she learns to be herself no matter where she is and who she dates.
THE WRITING STYLE
Angie Thomas is truly a gifted writer. It was hard to believe this was her debut novel. She paced the story really well and kept me intrigued from start to finish. I appreciated how real and raw her writing was. It could hit you in the gut without any notice and spark tears from your eyes. Her words were lyrical, hilarious at times, heartbreaking and moving. It never once felt slow or boring. I’m not sure about other people, but I felt completely drawn into the story. I found myself cheering for Starr on the sidelines and wanting to become an activist for Black Lives Matter. Her characters felt so authentic and that’s because, in a sense, they were. Angie told real stories and shared harsh truths. These things happen all the time and as the quote in the book says “what’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments when you shouldn’t be?”
STARR (HA!) RATING
I was truly blown away by this book. My emotions were taken on a wild ride but I loved every second. It was one of the best novels I’ve read this year and definitely the most important. It was also an absolute pleasure getting to meet Angie and hear her speak. I hope that this book inspires others to find their voice and fight for injustice. It has certainly given me a fresh perspective on the subject of policy brutality, misunderstood gang-members (e.g not all are thugs and criminals – some are just trying to survive/protect their families) and racial profiling. I want everybody to read this powerful story. If you’re interested in picking up a copy, please click here. There is a movie adaptation currently in the works.
I hope you enjoyed this spoiler-free review. Thank you for reading. Please let me know if you have read this book and what your thoughts/opinions were. If you haven’t, is it on your TBR? I’d love to know.
Peace & Love xoxo
Disclaimer: This post contains links to my Book Depository Affiliate which helps fund my blog, I am not being paid or sponsored for this post/products – all my thoughts/opinions are my own