The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Funny that the song that played on my iPod as I finished reading this book was Alabama Shakes' "Don't Wanna Fight," because the ending of The Hate U Give makes it clear the fight isn't over no matter what.
I've seen #BlackLivesMatter storylines on recent episodes of such TV series as Chicago PD and Murder in the First. Hell, even Fear The Walking Dead had the police taking on the first infected getting mistaken for brutality, leading to in-universe protests as the world started to burn. Compared to what we saw in this first excerpt from Angie Thomas' debut, though, TV's playing it too safe. And that's just her first of many tastes of searing commentary on some of today's biggest, most pervasive social ills.
Subtlety may not be Thomas' strong suit, but neither is simplicity. She populates this 400-plus-page book with some of the most complex characters to grace the YA world. Starr and her family are such standouts, especially Starr herself, caught as she is between worlds. Her home, and her school, and in the latter place, she refuses to let herself look or sound "too black" lest she get pigeonholed by her mostly-white classmates. Race relations are such a sticky topic, especially given that some of Starr's classmates are unrepentant, unconscious racists who don't understand how hurtful their "jokes" or "activism" are. But there are those who empathize and want to learn how to help Starr cope with all the horror she faces in her world now. Truly, no group is a monolith, whether privileged or marginalized. Heck, even within Starr's family, there's a lot of debates and clashing opinions - such as Maverick's (rightful) mistrust of the police vs. Uncle Carlos trying to defend his career choice as a cop, and questioning why Maverick has to make everything a race issue.
But the heavy stuff isn't the entire book. There's plenty of the little things in life to read and enjoy around here too. Especially given that Starr, like so many of our generation (authors and characters alike), is quite a fangirl, especially of 90s R&B, Fresh Prince, and of course Harry Potter. Also, the many scenes of family and friends bonding even when everything's going to hell in a handbasket, between the police brutality, gang turf wars, and rampant protests.
Bottom line, believe the hype. Thomas is terrific and everyone needs to read this book yesterday. Not for nothing did it top the bestseller list for as long as it did!
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