No hate for The Hate You Give

Emma Hansen, Online Editor

“You don’t kill someone for opening a car door. If you do, you shouldn’t be a cop.”

“The Hate You Give” derives its name from what famous rapper Tupac Shakur believed the phrase “Thug Life” stood for: The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everybody. This is a recurring phrase throughout the story and it becomes motivation for the main character to fight for justice for her friend.

16-year-old Starr Carter lives two different lives: the diligent student at the fancy private school, Williamson Prep, and the daughter of an ex-gang member in a low income neighborhood called Garden Heights.

At school, she makes sure there is no remnant of the Garden Heights girl – no slang, no back talk, and absolutely no angry Black girl.

Author, Angie Thomas makes the changes in Starr’s outward personality palpable. In her inner monologue, she’s dry and sarcastic, but to the outside world she’s a quiet student and a loyal daughter.

“The Hate U Give” is an extremely easy book for the reader to throw themselves into, considering its difficult subject matter. Right away, you can understand the characters, their motives, and who they are.

The story starts with a Garden Heights party. While Starr and her childhood friend Khalil are talking, they hear gunshots ring out. Khalil gets Starr out to his car and they drive away from the party. Not too long after, a police officer pulls them over.

Khalil is pulled out of the car and forced to stand there while the officer looks at his registration. He makes one move toward the window to ask Starr if she’s okay and then he’s on the ground with three bullet holes in his back.

Khalil’s death becomes a national headline. Protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a warzone. As the unknown witness of the crime, Starr is torn between coming forward and telling the police what she saw – an unarmed Black boy getting shot by an officer meant to protect him – and keeping quiet to preserve the last shred left of her fragile world.

Starr ultimately decides to comes forward and testify to the grand jury and, in the process, finds her inner activist. She speaks out in interviews and at her private school when her “friend” decides to protest Khalil’s death as an excuse to get out of class.

The story throws the reader right into the heart of the Black Lives Matter movement and lets them see everything through the eyes of someone who was the closest to the event. Everything is described so vividly that you can feel Starr’s pain and her indecision and her fear. She feels like a person, not a character.

It’s not all protests and activism. Thomas makes sure to sprinkle in little glimmers of humor, such as Starr’s father, “Big Mav,” throwing around Harry Potter gang theories and her White boyfriend constantly quoting “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

Thomas makes sure the humor doesn’t detract from her message or weaken the point she’s trying to make: police brutality and the killing of unarmed African Americans needs to stop. She teaches without preaching and never dumbs things down for her audience.

“The Hate U Give” is sad and dynamic and, at its core, incredibly real. The characters feel like people you know and the story is one that’s played out too many times before. It’s a tale of racism and police brutality that comes together in an essential read for teens.