4.5 out of 5 stars
Smart and heavy, sharp and accessible, The Hate U Give is an everything book. It took me a while to realize just how good it really is.
Starr Carter is a girl of two worlds. She lives in a rough, inner city neighborhood plagued by gang violence and drugs. To counter her real life, Starr’s parents send her to a predominantly white school in a wealthy suburb. As a result, Starr has two versions of herself. Her inner monologue navigates the space between it narrates The Hate U Give.
Bright, respectful, and savvy, Starr is poised to break free from the cycle of violence and poverty she sees dragging down the kids in her hometown. But that seemingly inevitable truth comes for her anyway: a chance reunion ends with her childhood best friend shot and killed by a white police officer. Starr is left with grief, anger, confusion and fear – both her own, and that of her city. While she struggles to figure out this new reality, the new reality struggles with her too: what can she do, what should she do, what must she do?
The Hate U Give is a heavy book, but also not. Starr’s a wonderful main character. You experience horror through her eyes, but she doesn’t live there; she doesn’t wallow. Nor does she ignore. Instead, Starr gives careful consideration to everything, and as a reader, I understood every change of mind and heart.
The best thing about The Hate U Give is that it’s extremely accessible. Yes, it’s about a black girl in a black community turned upside down by a hard news, #BlackLivesMatter-worthy event. But it doesn’t force anger and opinion on its reader – no matter who they are. All types of people populate these pages. The story unfolds in a way that the feelings come to the reader as they come to the characters. They’re shared human experiences. And they’re awful, make no mistake. But that’s why it works. This is the kind of book that can open minds, start conversations, and be used to teach from a place of hope, not hate.
The movie adaptation of The Hate U Give opened last weekend to excellent reviews. It’s at 97% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Hollywood is really trying to make Amandla Stenberg happen as the YA heroine du jour, and I hope this is the one that works for her. There’s certainly far more meat on this role than Everything, Everything (cute enough) and The Darkest Minds (absolute garbage).