In the nearly year and a half since The Hate You Give was released, so much has been said and written about Angie Thomas’ bestseller that it feels silly to try to add to the body of discussion at this stage. (In fact, I’ll be following this review up tomorrow with suggestions for further reading after you’ve finished the book.)
I won’t try to tell you that this book is groundbreaking and heart-wrenching and important (though it is), because you surely already know that. Instead, I’d like to offer a couple things you might not know:
In her discussion of the influence of rapper Tupac (who coined the phrase that became the title) on her book, Angie Thomas told NPR:
“I often say that I want to write like Tupac rapped. I could listen to his album and within a few minutes, I could go from thinking deeply to laughing to crying to partying. And that’s what I want to do as a writer – I want to make you think at times; I want to make you laugh at times; I want to make you cry at times – so he was an influence in that way.”
That’s exactly how the book reads. Yes, the book is often breathtaking or painful, but it was also full of sweet moments between Starr and her parents of friends (or even just within Starr’s inner monologue) that made me smile.
These moments of levity never betray the topic’s seriousness. Instead, they flesh out Starr’s world in a humanizing, affectionate way.
T.H.U.G. often gets billed as “the BLM book” or the like. Not without reason—it was among the first YA bestsellers to tackle police brutality and BLM-like protests in a modern setting. However, holding a book up as the single representative of a particular movement or type of person can give the impression that it is trying to be the final word on the subject. For many, Thomas is the first word, but I don’t think she wants to be the last.
Because there are so many black characters, Thomas’ representation of blackness in America doesn’t have to be monolithic. Starr doesn’t have to carry the weight of being “the American black girl character” because she’s contrasted with others, like her friend Kenya, her mother, and other black women in the community, who each embody distinct perspectives on their own identities.
The themes are broad and far-reaching, yes, but Thomas isn’t reaching for some all-encompassing manifesto on the subject. This is Starr’s story, and Thomas stays focused on her experience every step of the way. This isn’t a book about what BLM means, it’s a book about what police violence means to this person at this moment after this specific event.
Starr’s feelings are complicated and sometimes conflicted. Much of what makes the final protest and riot scenes so powerful is the war of emotions going on in Starr’s head—her rage at the court system, her sorrow at the destruction of her neighborhood, her fear and frustration with the police, her ever-present of her pride and shame in her background.
It’s got a wonderfully fresh romance
I went on my Tumblr soapbox the other day to discuss why I love Starr’s relationship with her white boyfriend, Chris, so much. Without drawing any attention to it, Thomas masterfully drew a teenage romance that had a healthy, realistic place in the
main character’s life. Chris is important to Starr, but he isn’t her end-all-be-all. Thomas allows Starr to care about this boy while still keeping him firmly in the realm of secondary character.
Including Starr’s relationship with Chris gives Thomas the chance to show us so much about Starr’s character—how she thinks about being female and black and poor. But Thomas does so while still keeping the book tightly focused on Starr’s experiences and her journey.
The Hate U Give is as ~important~ as everyone says, and you should read it for that reason alone, but if you’ve always felt that, perhaps, the book would be too depressing or preachy for you, I urge you to give it a try anyway. You’ll be glad you did, if for no other reason than the fact that you’ll be in-the-know when the movie comes out in a few months.