This weekend I read a book that I stayed up late to read, dreamt about, and woke up early to finish. That hasn’t happened in a long, long time. The spell-weaver was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and it absolutely lived up to the hype. I laughed and cried, and when I reached the end, I wanted to start all over again.
The narrator and heroine of the story is 16-year-old Starr Carter. She witnesses the murder of her oldest friend – an unarmed black boy – by a white police officer, and the novel leads us through the aftermath. Thomas takes on issues of systemic racism, “regular” racism, police violence, the power of community, and the complicated reality that is adolescence.
While the second-chapter-shooting is (sadly) something you’ve heard before – this week, in fact – the following narrative is not. Starr’s thoughts, fears, and hopes are not what the news covers, and it was a privilege to take a peek. Like any sixteen-year-old, she has moments of both wisdom and idiocy, but her heart is lioness-strong.
I think you should read this for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s wonderful. Secondly, if you’re reading this, you probably are a lot like me (that’s how filter bubbles work, ya’ll), so THUG will broaden your horizons and help you walk a mile in someone else’s (very cool) shoes. There was one moment in particular when I was upset for Starr, but it turns out the reason she was upset was slightly different than mine; her background and perspective made all the difference.
There are settings in the novel that are certainly similar to parts of my own story, but they are experienced from a different perspective. Like most kids, I was pretty self-centered, and I didn’t always take the time to reflect how those around me might be experiencing the same moment. Starr’s story gave me the opportunity to do so and appreciate how my friends and classmates must have felt isolated, under a microscope, like an outsider, or all of the above. And there’s value in that.
Finally (and see reasons #1 and #2 here), if you’re a librarian or a librarian-to-be, reading The Hate U Give means you will recommend it to your patrons, thus encouraging and supporting a diversity of reading materials. I also not-so-secretly hope that it helps our country better embrace each other, learn from each other, and make forward progress together.