Book Review: The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

I loved The Hate U Give. 5/5 stars.

Pacing

I was incredibly impressed with the pacing. The book was hard to put down from the beginning, largely because each chapter had a conflict that needed to be resolved, with each chapter’s conflict flowing into the overall conflicts of the book.

I don’t utilize conflict that well in my writing, but I’m going to try to do better.

Characters

I loved the characters, and I especially loved the nuanced hand with which Thomas portrays each person. While each character serves a clear role in showing the reality of police brutality in Black communities, Thomas develops the characters beyond stereotypes or plot devices.

The way she does this is bold. For example, Starr’s father is first mentioned by Starr as a former gangster, but when we actually meet Maverick, he’s a kind and attentive father, without any behavior that points to drugs, violence, or other stereotypes of ex-convict or absent fathers.

The reader can clearly see that while Maverick’s history with the Kings is part of his past, that history does not define his character. Maverick’s character is defined by his convictions and his love for his community and family.

Maverick is to The Hate U Give as Atticus Finch is to To Kill a Mockingbird, except Maverick also owns his past, confronts his flaws, and grows as a person.

Themes

The Hate U Give is most prominently a novel about police brutality against Black communities and the subsequent injustice of the courts. However, the book is also much more than that.

The novel deals with the struggle of living in two worlds but fitting in nowhere, of the contradiction of trying to keep your family safe while lending your community much-needed strength. Through Uncle Carl, Thomas looks at the struggle of trying to help your community by changing the system from the inside — without becoming the thing you’re fighting. Through the relationships among Starr, Uncle Carl, and Maverick, we see the trauma of incarcerated fatherhood that extends far beyond the prison sentence.

We watch Starr struggle to trust her white boyfriend amid her post-traumatic stress and his attempts to become better for her. We see how nearly impossible it can be for young men to stay away from the gangs and how fierce love and family values can actually drive young people to crime.

We see the unforgivable abuse of Black women, and we see both cowardice and courage in the face of domestic violence. We see heroic motherhood, constantly from Starr’s mother, Lisa, and quietly yet dramatically from Iesha.

We see Khalil, just a child trying to grow up, be gunned down by a fully grown officer before we even get a chance to know him properly. Yet, by the end of the book I felt like One-Fifteen had killed my younger brother.

The Hate U Give is meant to give voice to those who have been silenced, and as such it risks becoming annoyingly didactic, just as any such novel does. However, the Carter family and the Garden Heights community we come to know and love feel so real, and the problems they face so complex, that you can’t fault the novel. The book doesn’t actually push a political agenda: it tells a story. And the truth that story carries is so powerful that the path forward reveals itself.

10/10 would recommend to everyone.

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