Starr is an ordinary 16 year old, irritated by her overprotective older brother and her cheeky younger brother. She has a boyfriend, Chris, that her dad doesn’t know about, and who like her has a deep and abiding love for the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. She does all she can to fit into the spaces allocated to her, especially at school, where she is one of the few Black kids in attendance.
Always presenting a ‘positive’ side of her Blackness at school (never showing anger or any other type of strong emotion), Starr tries hard not to fall prey to the stereotypes presumed of young Black kids as being aggressive or ‘volatile’. But one night, her relatively ordinary existence irrevocably changes, when on her way back from a party with her best friend Khalil, they are stopped by a police officer, and Khalil who is unarmed, is fatally shot.
What follows is an all too familiar sequence of events where Khalil is portrayed as ‘just another young, black thug’ threatening a lone police officer who was just trying to do his job. And as the only witness, Starr now has to decide how she is to get justice for Khalil, while at the same time protecting her family, and all the things she holds dear.
The Hate U Give is a powerfully written YA novel, by first-time author Angie Thomas, clearly inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. The strong narrative made for a very enjoyable, if not emotional read. But despite, the emotive subject matter, it’s not overly heavy, there’s a really good balance of humour and seriousness throughout. What I loved the most was the realistic portrayal of the main characters, especially Khalil, who was essentially quite a complex character.
In the same way that the media often dehumanises young Black men, the author goes to lengths to show that they are really people, with hopes, dreams and fears like anyone else, regardless of the choices they make, and yes, their lives matter.
For anyone who may struggling to articulate or explain the nuances of the Black Lives Matter movement to a young audience or an audience which doesn’t quite get it, this book is a good start. If reading is not your thing, you’ll be happy to know there is a film based on the book currently in development and starring Hunger Games actress, Amandla Stenberg
Review by Priscilla Owusu
Find out more about Angie Thomas here.