Though published a few years ago, The Hate U Give is still relevant
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Genre: General Fiction
Published 2017, 444 pages
This book was all over bookstagram and the internet a couple years ago when it first came out and I didn't get around to reading it. Somehow it didn't catch my interest. Banned book week is Sept 28-Oct 2 this year and this book has been in the top 5 of banned books almost since it was published for language and violence. I figured "banned book, popular book I haven't read; time to read the book".
There are lots of reasons to read a book: escapism, to learn, to visit another city or country. Sometimes, to walk in another's shoes. This book widened my perspective and caused me to think, to rethink some of my views. Isn't it great when a novel can accomplish something so far-reaching?
The events in the story could have been pulled out of any newspaper today. Two teenage black kids driving down a neighborhood street, minding their own business get pulled over; the 16 year old boy gets shot and killed, and the girl, Starr, is left to deal with the law, the media, his and her family, and hardest of all, her feelings.
One thing I found compelling about the story is that Starr and her brothers are sent out of the neighborhood to a white prep school and Starr's description of her split feelings was so very well done. I felt her confusion and uncertainty and differentness. She acted and spoke like one person at school and with her white friends (and white boyfriend), and another when she was in the neighborhood with her black friends. She had to make a specific effort to think about where she was and which Starr she should be.
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
While everyone does that to a certain degree, in certain circumstances - I might act differently in a work environment than I do at home with family and friends - that is no comparison to the challenge she faced every day and that made her question who she really was. Or, more importantly, who she wanted to be.
The progression of the story was logical and touched on all the issues BLM has brought to the forefront of the social conscience again. Though it covered all the same topics we're seeing in the news: police stops for no reason, unwarranted shooting, riots, media coverage, racism from friends, cops covering for cops, cops making the victim into something evil as if that justifies killing them, damage to black neighborhoods and businesses - The Hate U Give puts such a personal touch on it that the whole dynamic changed for me and became even more real.
And it is accomplished without preaching or taking a moral high ground or beating the reader over the head with the issues - it's left for the reader to be affected....or not. I appreciate that the book doesn't claim or present that ALL cops are bad or that ALL white people are racist. Starr's white boyfriend is shown going through a definite growth path as he learns more about Starr's "real" life; one of her best white friends illustrates white privilege and she can't see her own racism; her black friends have their own growth arc as they come to know some white folks or cops who help them.
In a way, it's kind of like a Jodi Picoult story in that a difficult topic is tackled and shown from multiple points of view, trying to present all sides fairly. Throughout the book, Starr is encouraged and struggles to "find her voice". Use her voice to speak up and speak the truth. She struggles because there are strong consequences to speaking up. Can this 16 year old girl, devastated by the loss of a best friend, find her voice?
“What's the point of having a voice if you're gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn't be?”
I highly recommend this book - it would definitely be a conversation starter for a book club or for friends to Buddy Read - it might offer some insights to discuss about current social situations. The only "warning" is that there is definitely some salty language, but it actually feels very real to the characters as written.
You have to tell me what you thought of this book - I'm so curious if it affected others as it did me.
Reading Challenge: #PopSugar20 #39: banned book