“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
At the time of writing this review Goodreads have rated this as 4.56 out of 5
I shouldn’t have come to this party.
I’m not even sure I belong at this party. That’t not on some bougie shit, either. There’s just some places where it’s not enough to be me. Either version of me. Big D’s spring break party is one of those places.
Books are designed to transport us into worlds we have never traveled to. Some of those worlds we will never travel to. The chances of a person falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland is pretty much impossible as is finding a port-key or whispering a spell to get us to Hogwarts.
I’m never going to get to Westeros and I’m never going to get to Narnia. That’s ok, that’s what books are for.
When I think of books acting as their very own portal into worlds I think of those worlds being fantastical. But that’s not always the case. The worlds that exist within books can be worlds that exist for someone, somewhere.
I have mentioned before but I live in what I call ‘Jane Austen world’ in England. I’m white. I speak with a Home Counties English accent. I book Afternoon Tea and meet with friends and we talk about our jobs or our planned holidays.
Life has thrown me some curve balls. Some were minor and some were not minor at all.
But I have privilege. Boy, do I have privilege. One of those privileges is something that I have already mentioned. I have white privilege. I know that I have it but I don’t fully know what it means. I’ll probably never know what it means. I can listen to those who don’t have white privilege and try and understand but I’ll never fully understand, I’ll never fully get it because, as cliche as it sounds, at the end of the day I’m white and my life will coast along that lane of white privilege.
I don’t have male privilege. I’m female. That has its own set of oppressors but that’s for another time.
In reading ‘The Hate U Give’ I was given a port-key into a world that I have never visited and one that I will never be able to visit but for some people the scenarios and situations are a reality.
What is The Hate U Give about? Race? Yes. Race in America? Yes. Police and race in America? Yes. Most definitely.
The Hate U Give gives an insight to the above. So yes, The Hate U Give is about race and police in America. It’s about hate. It’s about fear. It’s about your past actions and your background and trying to escape something you feel is bigger than you ever will be.
But it’s also about family. This book has such strong themes relating to family and friendships, the solid kind that stick with you during the awful times. In fact, for me this is what The Hate U Give is about – family.
Starr and her friend leave a party and they get pulled over by a policeman. They’ve done nothing wrong and they do nothing wrong. Starr’s friend Khalil is outside the car and does one simple thing – opens the driver door to ask Starr if she’s ok. He gets gunned down for it. The story that follows is that aftermath of that event.
If you’re looking for an action packed story that is filled with Starr realising the injustice of the situation and speaking out and becoming a voice of the people – then this is not the book for you. If you’re looking for a story that takes you through the twists and turns of a justice and legal system that has a heavy racial bias – this is not the book for you.
Yes, Starr knows the injustice of the situation and yes, her deciding whether to speak out is a key plot point and yes, we get to understand the injustices of a justice system and the way media works against people but these are not the main points of the book.
I would almost say…. not much happens. Not in terms of the aftermath of the shooting and what we would expect to read about but oh, so much happens. This is not a story about Khalil but a story about Starr and her slow and painful realisation of the world she lives in. Such an introspective book could be seen as boring right? This is never boring. Not once.
In fact I was riveted the entire way through. This is due to the glorious trifecta of characters, setting and plot. And I’m going to chuck voice in there too.
As I’ve mentioned this is not about police shootings in America or movements or grand societal gestures but is almost an alternative coming of age story. We follow Starr as she navigates her thoughts and feelings around what has happened and what she has witnessed. We follow Starr as she weaves through the relationships around her and the world she lives in and makes sense of it all. The small moments build up to bigger ones and there are some tense moments as she experiences police bias and gangland actions.
The world she inhabits is fully detailed and real, all the small details about homes and streets and places where people live leap off the page and the characters are hands down the best thing about this book. Every character seems like they are a living person, all their mannerisms and speech patterns and interactions are just like you’re sitting with them at a table. I love Starr’s family just as much as she does.
The final thing to mention is voice – considering as this book is about voice and using the power of your own to speak up how does Starr’s fare? Actually it’s pretty good. We experience ‘The Hate U Give’ through a first person perspective and so we are with Starr all the way. She has a relaxed, conversational way of talking and guides you through her world with ease, pathos and humour. For such a serious topic there are some truly heartwarming and funny moments which just flesh out the humanity of it all.
I guess that’s the point as I guess that’s what some people can’t see – the humanity of it all.
This isn’t usually my ‘type’ of book as I tend to go for more fantasy books but I always say give anything a go and this was wonderful and I’m glad I read it.