How “The Hate U Give” Restored my Faith in YA Fiction

Our book for Book Club this month was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  I know I’m late to the party on this one, but I LOVE. THIS. BOOK. I have not loved a book this much in God knows how long. At one point I was up until 2 AM because I didn’t want to stop reading, and that hasn’t happened in years. I cried real tears during this book, to the point where Dan looked over at one point and asked me if I was okay.

For those of you that haven’t read this book (you need to!), here’s a quick synopsis without giving too much away. Starr Carter lives in Garden Heights, but her mamma drives her 45 minutes across town to a private high school, Williamson, where she is the only black girl. She works hard to keep Garden Heights Starr and Williamson Starr two separate people– she can’t give the private school kids a reason to call her “ghetto”, and she can’t let her neighbors in Garden Heights call her a sell-out. One night, Starr finds herself in a car with her childhood friend, Khalil, driving through Garden Heights and catching up on each other’s lives. They are pulled over for a routine traffic stop, and the night ends with Khalil lying on the road in a pool of his own blood. Starr watches helplessly as Khalil, who is unarmed, is shot and killed by a police officer for no other reason than the color of his skin. In the aftermath, the wall between Starr’s two worlds shatters, and she has to figure out who she is going to be from this point forward. As the only witness to Khalil’s murder, does she speak up or keep quiet and stay safe?

This book is so incredibly important, and is a catalyst for unpacking a lot of hot topics. Racial conflict, stereotypes and prejudices, police brutality, and systemic poverty, to name a few. Above all, The Hate U Give humanizes the Black Lives Matter movement and every news headline about another young black kid getting shot by the police. Regardless of where you stand on these issues, this book is designed as a plea to our collective humanity, and it will definitely make you think. As a white twenty-something, being able to live this story through Starr’s perspective was eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and beautiful all at once. This book is by no means a “light read.” This story is so beautifully written, with scenes that will grip your heart and stick in your memory long after you finish the last page.

As I was doing some research into this book, I was glad to learn that this book is being taught in high schools all across the country. I like to think that this book’s intended audience is a class of high school students whose reading, debating, and discussion of the book will equip them with compassion and a broadened perspective as they get ready to take on the adult world and all of its problems. To me, this is the purpose of Young Adult Fiction.  

This is the kind of book that my mother definitely wouldn’t have let me read in school because it contains mature content such as profanity, sexual situations, violence and drugs. However, I think these mature elements are treated with tact. If a parent prevents their teen from reading this book, they will be lesser for it.

I think we all have something to gain by spending a few hundred pages in Starr Carter’s shoes.

4 thoughts on “How “The Hate U Give” Restored my Faith in YA Fiction

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