I recently finished a wonderful and timely book that you might of heard a bit of buzz about. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is titled after Tupac’s Thug Life acronym “the hate you give little infants f****s everybody,” and the book explores this concept in the most heartfelt, YA friendly way possible.
The Hate You Give closely follows Starr, a bright 16-year old black girl who witnesses her childhood friend being shot and killed by a police officer. This is so much more that a police brutality story, though; this novel offers a glimpse into a rich, symbiotic, neighborhood that could easily been written off as “rough” without a second glance. Starr and her family live in Garden Heights, an urban community with an intense gang presence alongside a cast of warm and multi-layered characters.
I’m going to admit that I found it hard to get into this book at first because the language was so spot-on for a 16 year old kid. It almost felt like I was listening in on a conversation between a few of my students. Once I got into the groove of the story, though, I realized how incredible the voice really was; Thomas never falters in her ability to phrase challenging concepts in the most relatable way possible, and she never shies away from a pop culture reference.
I also realized how powerful this story will be for my students because of the language the author chooses to use, and the point of view she has chosen. Complex ideas about racism are broken down more effectively as Starr and her friends debate and discuss them than in some of the New York Times Articles I’ve read on similar topics. This simple quote, a line spoken by Starr’s Asian best friend, stood out to me.
“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
The number of times I have failed to truly explain the “just because you’re used to hearing it doesn’t make it okay,” concept to my students, and this book just nails it. Other things it nails: parents. I love how deep and real and intelligent and present Starr’s parents are in particular. I love that Thomas takes the time to give us their backstories, and to really dive into how these backstories impact their choices throughout the novel. There truly are no flat characters in this novel- especially not the parents.
This book weighs in at a whopping 450+ pages, mostly because of all those backstories. There are tons of characters, big and small, all with their own subplots and challenges. There are so many examples of how racism is still embedded in our country, and there are also examples of how we can make positive changes moving forward. It was a joy to read about Starr finding her voice and finding her place within the Black Lives Matter movement.
This book should be required reading for everyone this year- and I’m not just talking about my students. I sure know some adults who would benefit from reading this. I know entire counties that would benefit from reading this. So, if you have the chance, pick up a copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and give it a read:)
Happy Reading, Bookworms!!
Now You Tell Me…
- TEACHERS: what books are on your school’s summer book list?
- BOOKWORMS: I already have All American Boys…are there any other books like this I can grab for my classroom library?