Genres: Young Adult, Own Voices, Diversity
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Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.
Black kids getting shot. Murdered by police when unarmed without a reason. Working against a system that will never give them justice.
Although Starr and Garden Heights is fictional, this is a story that is very real for many black families out there. When they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, when they get themselves an education, work hard and look after their families, they may still never justice over the unfair shootings of black kids. Simply because they are black.
The ghetto often has a negative connotation to it, but we see Garden Heights as a vibrant and tight knit community of people looking after each other. Whether it’s the shop owners feeding the neighbourhood, to families watching each others backs, kids looking after their parents or even the King Lord gangsters providing protection for others, this is a community that you don’t mess with.
The Hate U Give opened my eyes to so many things I’ve admittedly been ignorant about. The “thug” life and how some kids have no choice but to sell drugs to make a living. The reliance on neighbourhood gangs for protection, used in place of the police they can’t trust. The double identities that teenagers like Starr have to live, so that white people don’t assume she’s a stereotypical ghetto girl and write her off as someone who’s beneath them.
Starr goes through an internal struggle, coping with grief from losing her best friend, fear of speaking out against a system that is working against her, and also the pain of hiding her real self from the private school she attends. Her commentary is frank, matter of fact but also heartening. This girl has a lot of soul, and you can’t help but love her.
Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.
Along with the social commentary on the Black Lives Matter movement, the book also covers the key people in a teen’s life – family, friends and a relationship. Starr is dating Chris who is a white boy, which her strict father wouldn’t approve of but he’s also the sweetest, most understanding boy you’ve ever laid eyes on. I loved how he provided stability, understanding and normalcy to Starr’s turbulent life, and never judged her for her different home life.
Starr’s friendships are also complex, covering the dynamics between the friends from her neighbourhood and the friends from her school. Standing up for yourself and calling out those who are close to you for being racist takes strength, but it does take time to build confidence to do that. Last but not least, I loved Starr’s family members and how they showed their love for her, their family, and their neighbourhood. Each and every character in The Hate U Give is vibrant, heartfelt and memorable.
I don’t talk like me or sound like me. I choose every word carefully and make sure I pronounce them well. I can never, ever let anyone think I’m ghetto.
We hear about black people getting shot and the ghetto crime that happens in the media, but we are none the wiser about what really goes on in the community. That’s why The Hate U Give is such an important read, providing an insider’s insight into black lives, families, and neighbourhoods. The Hate U Give arms every soul out there, whether oppressed or privileged, with the knowledge to understand oppression and take action.
And perhaps the most important thing about the book – black teenagers now have a character they can relate to, someone who is inspiration in their own right and copes with many of the struggles that they do. Black teens can be the hero of the story too, and they can be empowered to seek change.
Rating: 5 out of 5
The Hate U Give is out now at Australian bookstores for RRP$17.99.
Thanks to Walker Books Australia for sending me a review copy.
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