Review: “The Hate U Give” Speaks Out, Demands to be Read

Janiya Meekins, Staff Reporter

People are flocking to the theaters to see the new film “The Hate U Give.”  The film, however, was adapted from the novel of the same name by Angie Thomas, who is at the forefront of bringing socially conscious themes to popular Young Adult literature. 

“The Hate U Give” (Balzer & Bray) presents how police officers can affect a community, and how the media influences the way the country thinks about this affect.  It follows a young girl as she navigates the world through police brutality, relationships, portrayal of people in the media, family importance, and how our hate can affect us negatively from the start of our lives.

“The Hate U Give” (Balzer & Bray) by Angie Thomas

Starr Carter deals with the consequences of watching her childhood best friend get shot in front of her when a policeman pulls them over.  As news spreads of Starr’s involvement, she worries for her family’s safety from her town and the police, and for her reputation as one of the few black people in the private school she attends.  Starr does the best she can to balance being “black enough” for her neighborhood and “white enough” for her school while trying to bring her dead friend justice.

The plot is personal to all Americans through its portrayal of police-on-black brutality.  The fear and anger black people in America feel is translated very well in “The Hate U Give” because of the direct connection between the victim and the novel’s protagonist.  The novel goes even further to show how the media distorts the victim’s image into someone they are not. Khalil, Starr’s friend that was shot in front of her, is only portrayed by most news stations as a potential drug dealer and suspected gang member, as if those reasons justified his killing.   

“The Hate U Give” shows  the value of both a black and white and a black and black romantic relationship.  Starr herself has a white boyfriend that truly embraces her blackness without fetishizing it.  She also has a strong example of what a relationship should be because her parents, both black, are happily married.  It was important to portray this difference because, due to how they are often portrayed elsewhere, people usually think black and white relationships don’t work, and black and black relationships don’t last.  The love Starr’s parents share is different than but just as valuable as Starr’s relationship with her boyfriend.

Thomas seems to take great care in portraying this black family as relatable and understandable as a white family automatically would be.  It is a fallacy, often represented in other books and movies, that there is only one way to be black, and if you do not fit that criteria, you are the “white black person.” Starr, trying to stay true to herself, has to battle with being called “ghetto” at her school and “white” at home.  Starr is not stereotypical because she has a functional family – despite the dysfunction around her – and particularly observant and insightful when addressed with a situation.

Despite its heavy themes, the novel still balances grief with small moments of happiness.  Some parts are even funny, particularly those between Starr’s boyfriend, Chris, and her father.  The importance of family is prominent – the members of Starr’s family make each other happy and feel safe without being destructive or unhealthily dependent.

All of these important aspects culminate in an important message for today: how damaging our media and policing can be to a community, or even the country.  Today, as throughout America’s history, police brutality is not uncommon. Thomas’ novel portrays what it’s like to be directly affected by the results of police brutality, and how the media can make people think a boy deserved to die because he was selling drugs.   Or because he came from a neighborhood that is considered “destructive” without police intervention. Or because the policeman was just doing his job and was scared.

“The Hate U Give” is a socially important book.  It is more than that, though. It features a strong plot and characters that people of all races can connect with in some way.  I highly recommend “The Hate U Give” to anyone because there is a great chance that they will relate or learn something new about the world around them and open their eyes to a new perspective.

“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas, published by Balzer & Bray, is available now at most area and online bookstores.