Published by Balzer + Bray
Published On: February 28, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Maturity Level: YA - some violence and sensitive topics
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I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.
This is an extremely difficult review to write because of all the hype surrounding this book and the sensitive topics. For the most part, I enjoyed The Hate U Give. There were things I liked and things I didn’t and there was still some problematic areas. I’m going to try my best to explain the jumble of thoughts swirling in my brain as I finished this book. These are all opinions though and I’ve focused on the book itself, not the issues surrounding it.
I liked the ideas of The Hate U Give. I loved that it’s about the Black Lives Matter movement because there’s still a lot of people who are sadly unaware of the things that are happening. This will be a great book to help bring awareness and hopefully help people to understand people of colour and how they often aren’t treated like everyone else. It’s a sad but honest book and while I didn’t like it as much as I hoped, I still think it’s an important book for everyone to read.
“I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose.”
Something that I don’t think a lot of people will notice while reading The Hate U Give is that it’s about MORE than just the BLM movement. While that’s the main point the book focuses on, I think it’s also VERY important to point out the other things we see that also add up to the shooting (which is the main plot point of this book).
For example, gun violence. That’s something I’ve always had a hard time understanding because here in Canada we have pretty strict laws when it comes to guns. I have a friend who owns a few and he had to take exams, get references, and sign lots of papers to be able to have and use them. Not to mention there are rules to how you can store them. In The Hate U Give, it seems that everyone and their dog uses a gun and everyone is always whipping them out. I think that gun violence is a huge issue that’s only making shootings like this worse and hopefully other people see that while reading this novel.
Another issue that I think this book touched on was poverty. Maybe a lot of these events could have been prevented if poorer people were given a chance. From the way The Hate U Give talked about it, lots of people are forced into gangs and drugs because they have no other means of making money for their families.
Basically what I’m saying is that our world can use some work and I think The Hate U Give does a good job of pointing that out.
Something to note is that I really liked the family relationships in this book. You could tell that our main character puts a high price on family and I think it’s wonderful. They’re all involved in each others lives (as much as they can be) and they all love each other so much. There’s even characters who aren’t biologically related to this family but they’re still considered family. It’s really wonderful to see and I wish we got to see more families like this in YA books.
Now onto the things I didn’t like so much.
This quote from author K.M. Breakey in Johnny and Jamaal sums up my thoughts exactly.
“Racist police officers are not the biggest threat facing young Blacks. That honor goes to BLM itself. They preach a nothing-is-your-fault doctrine. They say, join us in our safe space and never again face consequences for your actions. No matter what you do, it’s not your fault. BLM demands unmitigated submission from Whites and blind allegiance from Blacks. BLM fights racism with racism and ignores the paradox.”
And then this quote from Sophie in her review of Johnny and Jamaal sums up how I feel about the quote.
“Don’t get me wrong, black lives do matter, and it’s absolutely true that they are the ones we should be focusing on right now, but the movement itself, as explained in the book, can be toxic and can set people back instead of pushing everyone forward. “
That was my biggest issue (though still not a huge issue) with The Hate U Give. I felt that while The Hate U Give presented us with how the US is handling current events but it did not give us any solutions. While I agree that these characters should have been fighting back like they were, they could have done more.
I didn’t really like our main character Starr for the reasons I mentioned above. She was scared, and I get that. She was going through some scary things and she eventually came out of her shell a bit. While I admire her for fighting back like she did, I wished she had done more. I wished she had tried to come up with solutions instead of focusing on one thing. This is why I liked Starr’s dad though. He tried SO HARD to help out the kids in his neighborhood who he knew could have better lives. He didn’t judge, he just helped. He was perfect and I was hoping for more characters similar to him.
“I’ve Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.”
I also got annoyed at Starr because she pushed a lot of people away. She goes to what seems to be a prep school (though I wasn’t clear if that’s what it was or not) and this school is mostly white. She has some genuine friends and some pretty horrible ones but she starts to push the good ones away. She has a nice boyfriend who isn’t black and she often gets mad at him for saying or doing things she doesn’t, as a person of colour, like. I don’t think that’s fair. I think correcting and explaining why something is wrong is ok, even encourage, but yelling and getting mad for things he really didn’t understand was unfair (and he tried really hard to understand).
I feel like this is another reason why the BLM movement can be dangerous. It’s hard to listen and understand when there’s so much yelling and fighting. Yes, some people that I’ve seen really do deserve it, but most of us are honestly trying extremely hard to understand. We DO want to help. We DO want to listen. You just need to give us a chance! Those people who are fighting BLM with all lives matters (and just plain racists) aren’t going to change their minds so why focus on them? Focus on the ones who do help and support because we aren’t so rare (I don’t think).
I think the hype got this one for me. I was expecting something incredible and wonderful but I didn’t feel like that’s what I got. It’s not the perfect book I was expecting it to be, though it’s an important one. I do still recommend that everyone reads The Hate U Give, especially those who aren’t dealing with things like this on a daily basis. It’s a good glimpse into a totally different culture (not just people of colour but America in general) and I think it’s important seeing a different culture like this.
There is one thing this book easily got right:
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”