Book Review: The Hate U Give
5 out of 5 stars
Format: Library Hardcover - YA contemporary - Goodreads summary:
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil, at the hands of a police officer.
Khalil's death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr's neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life."
So this will be a different from my other reviews, so bear with me. That's because this book really made me think. Thomas' debut novel is nothing short of breathtaking, raw, and beautifully powerful. It is the epitome of "staying power" which is what all writers want. I picked it up for 2 reasons: 1) because of the glowing reviews and praise floating around the Twitter writing community (*waves* hi guys!); 2) I also picked it up because of the push for more diversity in our novels and writers. Diverse Voices, #DVpit*, and OWNvoices** are things agents actively seek. They want diverse writers. They want diverse characters.
The problem occurs when people like me (not a person of color) try to add to the diversity by writing color instead of culture. Writing a character with my opinions, worldview, upbringing, and privilege, but making her of Indian descent, is doing that culture a HUGE disservice. Similarly, I don't know what it's like to grow up a 16yo African American girl in the middle of the #blacklivesmatter movement. So to try and write it would be stepping outside my scope, if you will. So what's a poor, white writer girl to do??
READ. Support diverse authors, and encourage others to read diversely even if we're not exactly qualified to write it. As much as I don't want to add to the white noise (pun intended) in literature, I know these stories are not mine to tell, and I would likely do more harm than good if I tried. SO. I educate myself by reading across cultural groups as much as I can. I don't want to be in a literary bubble, and neither should you.
So that's my writer's perspective. As a reader and reviewer, I say The Hate U Give needs to be on every high school reading list asap. My teeny tiny critiques come down to two things. Starr's bff Hailey was a little too much for me. I felt her reactions (given Starr has been her bff for years now) were a tad 2D. It was almost too easy to hate Hailey and the way she handled things. Are teenagers immature? Sure. But if she's been besties with Starr and has been a closeted racist this whole time...I'm just not sure why she sought out Starr as a friend in the first place. Also, did I say how much I hate Hailey and everything she is? Okay, good.
The next critique is more like a heads up. The story is first person, and the writing is very stylized- as it should be because the main character is a teenager. It took me a few pages to get into the rhythm of the narrative and pick up on some of the slang. It's VERY contemporary, so get ready for nods to Jordans, Tumblr, and texting. It felt a little like Shakespeare, honestly. Each reading takes you a page or two to get into it. Once I was in it, I couldn't stop reading. I read this in a few days and easily killed 100 pages in a sitting. It's just. so. amazing.
The story is beautifully written, believable, and has guts. I laughed, I cried, I ached. I've been talking about this book to everyone who will listen, so grab a copy, call your library and make sure they have one on the shelves, lindle it out. Do what you have to do to share this with whomever you can. It's that good.
*#DVpit is a pitch event on Twitter where agents will read tweet pitches from diverse voices. So if your story centers around a minority culture (not just race, but any diverse group), then you could pitch your manuscript using this hashtag during an event.
**OWNvoices is similar, but takes it further. This hashtag is often mentioned in query letters as well to communicate to agents that the writer is pulling from his/her own diverse experience. So in Thomas' book, a black woman writing from a black teenager girl's perspective. As with DVpit, the point is to identify diversity in writing.