The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
At sixteen Starr Carter straddles two worlds. There’s the poor neighborhood where she was raised and where her father operates a local store, and then there’s the prep school where her parents send her and her two brothers. For her parents this offers some protection from drive-by shootings, one of which has already taken one of Starr’s friends. But it also places her slightly apart in both worlds.
This begins to accelerate out of control when Kahlil, a friend from age three, drives her home from a party. On the way they’re pulled over for a traffic stop during which Kahlil is shot three times by a policeman. The shocking event puts Starr in conflict with almost everyone around her: her policeman uncle, local gangs, police investigators, friends at school, and her own family. As the investigation and grand jury inquiry continue the neighborhood where she lives becomes more restless and outraged. Starr must make a decision whether to stay an anonymous witness to what she knows is a murder or to take part in activism.
It’s a stunning and carefully written book that gives a rare black perspective to something that, with nearly everyone carrying a handheld camera, has received greater focus and attention. Thomas has filled the book with a wide variety of characters including a white friend from school who manages to sprinkle talk with racially charged comments, a white boyfriend who tries to fit into and understand her life, and a gang lord married to her half-brother’s mother.
Starr makes a wonderful transition from fear to courage in the book, supported by a father who has raised his children with ideas from the Black Panthers’ 10-Point Program and sayings from generations of black civil rights leaders.
It’s a moving and sometimes painful book which, though intended for a young adult audience, could have a powerful impact on a reader from any age or any race. It’s insightful and loving with a main character worth emulating.