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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


By Naomi Zerriffi

Starr Carter is the 16-year-old African American narrator of this story. When she was 12, her parents had “the talk” with her but besides the birds and bees they also told her how to behave if stopped by a cop. Near the beginning of the story she has occasion to use their advice. She and her 16-year-old friend Khalil, who is driving, are pulled over for a broken tail light. Maybe his parents didn’t have that talk because after being dragged out of the car and searched and told to put his hands on the car, he moves to see if Starr is ok and is then shot and killed by the cop.

This is not the first murder Starr has witnessed. When she was 10, her best friend, Natasha, was killed in a drive-by shooting. Starr held both her friends as they lost their lives. This is her reality in the ghetto where she lives but she has another reality¾a mostly white suburban school she attends. Starr has to figure out what to do about Khalil’s murder as she is the only witness while also maintaining her persona in her other world at school where she never talks about where she lives. Starr has to figure out her responsibility to her friend. Should she testify at a grand jury and how that might play out at school.

Starr has a somewhat unusual family. Her dad was in a gang and spent three years in jail but got out of that life and runs a store and has respect in the neighborhood. Her mom is a nurse and her uncle is a cop. She has a younger brother and an older half-brother, who finds some stability and direction from Starr’s parents (not at his mom’s place) and graduates high school and is accepted to university.

There are some references and vocabulary that those of us who are older won’t get, but it doesn’t detract from the story. Mostly you can figure them out from the context or, if you can’t, it’s not essential anyway.

The title of the book comes from Tupac Shakur band, Thug Life, which is actually an acronym for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody.

This is a story that needs to be told and it’s told well. It’s a story about racism, police violence, family and friends, growing up, and figuring out how to deal with all sorts of situations. The characters are well formed and nothing is (pardon the pun) black and white. People are nuanced. There is anger but it’s also funny, sad, and suspenseful and just a really good read.

I lent it to a 16-year-old friend who had these additional comments: “I really enjoyed it and it was truly a book I couldn’t put down. What also struck me about the book was Starr’s relationship with her uncle and her father and the constant struggle to make sure neither of them was hurt by her relationship with the other. I personally really enjoyed having a peek into the personal life of Starr outside of the tragedy. It was refreshing to hear about her relationship with her friends and her boyfriend and how they developed through the story. Overall, I really enjoyed the plot and feel that it is relatable in some way or another to anyone who reads it.”

I would recommend this book to anyone about 14 and up, whatever your background. I have donated my copy to the Biblioteca, so look for it on the New Books shelves.


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