Title: The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: YA Contemporary
Date Read: 10/02/2018 – 14/02/2018
This book had been sitting on my Kindle for months, and while I kept i ntending to read it, I kept putting it off because I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be an easy read. There were definitely times when I got angry or frustrated, but for the most part, this was a really accessible account of what it can be like being black in America today.
This book was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and I don’t think I have ever read a book that felt quite so contemporary. Not just the issues presented, but in other ways. This one refers to things like Tumblr and how Black Twitter mobilises in the face of another shooting; this actually made me realise how little social media is utilised in so-called contemporary books (or at least the ones that I’ve read, which admittedly, isn’t a huge number).
The book is written in first person, so the narration, as well as the dialogue, is written in a style appropriate to that of a black American teenage girl. I’ve seen some reviews say the writing is terrible, but I think there’s a difference between “this is terrible writing” and “the author’s deliberate stylistic choice did not work for me”. I appreciated hearing a different voice in the narration; one YA contemporary does sound very much like another lately, especially those written in first person.
I did like the way the black community was depicted; it was a warts ‘n’ all representation, though to be honest, I did sometimes lose track of who was related to whom and how, and who was working for whom. I also thought the way Starr’s conflict between the different selves she created for herself, depending on whether she was with her black family and friends or her white friends at school was well-depicted. After reading the author’s notes, I realise there is a lot of Angie Thomas in there. The attitudes of the white people around Starr at her school were well-done without being heavy-handed. I expect some white readers may get defensive over the portrayal, but honestly, it was quite realistic.
I did sometimes feel that the pacing was a bit off. Sometimes, something would feel repetitive or like it was being padded out, but then we got barely a glimpse of Starr’s testimony at the Grand Jury later on in the book. This was really the only thing that knocked a star off my rating.
I’ve seen some people say “Should I read this book or Dear Martin?” (another book about contemporary black teens) and even without having read the latter is, “Read both.” This is an important book, but it is only one author’s experience. I hope that the popularity of this particular story will mean that we get to hear of more black authors’ experiences in the near future.