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The Hate U Give, a powerful young adult novel by Angie Thomas, is an extremely relevant novel distinctly dealing with racism’s impact on society, as well as a moving read. After the death of Oscar Grant in 2009, Angie Thomas decided to write a book for teens about police brutality since she believes the teenage years are “a critical age.” The book, especially its title, which comes from the phrase, “THUG LIFE,” was inspired by the influential African-American rapper Tupac Shakur, born Lesane Parish Crooks. The Hate U Give has the overt message of how racism can cripple communities, and the undisguised theme of social justice, making it both timeless in its relevance and an especially fitting story today, due to the recent Black Lives Matter protests. 

In the book, sixteen year-old Starr Carter sees her best friend, Khalil Harris, get shot by a cop. He was just a teenager. He was unarmed. They were driving at night when a cop pulled them over, asking for their papers and license. When Khalil doesn’t do this and instead asks why he pulled the two of them over, Starr begs him to do exactly what the cops said; she knows not to disobey an armed cop. Khalil gives him his papers and license, after which the officer tells him he has a broken taillight, and tells him to get out of the car and put his “hands up, where I can see them.” The cop, suspecting there are drugs in the car, goes to search the car. Khalil comes over to Starr, opens the car door, and asks Starr if she is alright.

The cop promptly shoots Khalil twice in the back.

After Starr talks to the cops as a witness to Khalil’s murder, “on the Monday night news, [the media/society] finally gave Khalil’s name in the story about the shooting, but with a title added to it- Khalil Harris, A Suspected Drug Dealer. They didn’t mention that he was unarmed.” There are protests and riots speaking out against Khalil’s death, but the only way protesters can really let the public know that what happened to Khalil was wrong is by getting the “unidentified witness”-the one who was in the car with Khalil- to go to a public place, whether the TV or a televised protest, and speak about what really happened that night. But although Starr has said in the past that if she witnessed racially motivated violence, she would speak up publicly, now that her time has come, she is too afraid. The book continues by talking about how she is split between her majority-white school and black neighborhood, and how she finds her voice.

The Hate U Give is a beautiful, inspiring book that, because of its theme of social justice and its connection to the Black Lives Matter movement, is extremely relevant and undoubtedly worth reading. Its message concerning speaking out against racism, police brutality, and social justice can be summed up by some of the book’s final words: “I’ll never forget...I’ll never give up...I’ll never be quiet.” The Hate U Give’s message is one that should be remembered always: keep fighting for what is right, never forget those who have been wronged, and always speak up when your words have the power to inspire change.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Balzer & Bray, 2017. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!

Plus, read another review of the book by a Stone Soup reader here.

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