The Hate U Give
Balzer + Bray
Published on February 28, 2017
About The Hate U Give
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
If you’re part of the YA community at all, chances are you’ve heard about or already read this book. It’s been on my list to read since before it came out, and I’ve finally managed to get a copy. Once I had The Hate U Give in hand, it didn’t take me long to read it.
The most powerful part of the story is the way it puts faces and names on an issue too often in the headlines. We see not only Starr, a young high school student with her whole life ahead of her, but also her loving family, and the community around her. And we see these elements not only for her but for Khalil, the boy killed by police, as well. We learn about his mistakes, but we also learn that those things aren’t the whole of who he is. We learn about why he made some of those choices, and it doesn’t make them less wrong, but it does make the truth more complicated.
One of the issues that comes up with regard to this book is how much profanity is included in the story. In a Twitter post, Angie Thomas talked about this issue, and said she hoped people would see the story and be moved by the importance of it rather than getting hung up on the language.
And while I absolutely appreciate what she’s saying—because the book does talk about a critical issue in an incredibly powerful way—I also understand that including so much strong language will prevent some people from reading the book and will give ground for some schools to opt not to carry it in their libraries. It may keep the story out of some of the hands of people who most need to read it. And I find that frustrating and sad.
I loved this story. It moved me. It made me connect with characters deeply. It made me realize that while I’ve been outraged and upset about police brutality, it’s been on an issue level—I’ve objected to ideas like racism and profiling and injustice. The Hate U Give made me object on a human level, made me think about the communities affected by police brutality and the friends and family members left behind. It made me see the victims as not simply blurbs in headlines, but as complex people.
I’m always nervous reviewing books like this because I’m afraid I’ll phrase something wrong and end up offending someone or getting hate mail or something like that. But I think it’s important to review them anyway, and to take the risk of speaking up and sharing my thoughts.
Reading The Hate U Give made me think about another story I’ve read called Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. It also made me wonder what the novel would have looked like if it had been from Starr’s friend Kenya’s perspective. Her father is a local gang leader who abuses her mother. I don’t mean this as a criticism of the story at all. Telling it from Starr’s point-of-view really showed the tug-of-war in her life between the black community where she lived and the white community where she went to school, which was a powerful element. But I hope that someone tells Kenya’s story, too.
Starr and her family are black. Starr dates a white boy, but hasn’t told her dad yet. Her best friends at school are white and Asian.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used frequently.
References to making out, kissing between a boy and girl. Starr’s boyfriend asked her to have sex with him, but she refused, and was angry at him for even bringing it up. Later, she initiates some sexual contact (hand under clothes) but stops.
Starr’s family prays together on multiple occasions.
Starr hears gunshots at a party she’s attending and later learns someone was killed there. She witnesses police shoot her unarmed friend after pulling him over. Gang members threaten and attack a local business man and a young gang member. Starr doesn’t see the attacks, but does see the resulting injuries. Starr’s half-brother, Seven, worries about his mom, who continually lets a man live with her even though he beats her.
Protests turn violent. Protesters damage police cars, businesses, etc. Starr and her friends are upset and believe that only makes the conflict worse.
Teen drinking at the party Starr attends at the beginning of the book. She smells pot smoke there, too.