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Diversify Yourself: Angie Thomas debuts with a must-read

Serena Bettis

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Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give tells a compelling story about Starr Carter’s life after she witnesses the murder of her childhood best friend, Khalil. Khalil, a black teenager, was shot by a white police officer while Khalil was unarmed and not engaging in any dangerous activity. Starr struggles with finding the courage to speak out about the injustice in her community while processing her grief over her friend. Thomas gets you inside Starr’s head as she worries about showing the “true” side of her that grew up in gang-ridden Garden Heights, compared to the way she acts at her private suburban school with her friends.

I absolutely adore every aspect of this book. Thomas’s writing, characterization, and plot pacing are all strong elements that make The Hate U Give a fantastic read.  Looking back on the story, I wondered how I could know so much about Starr’s life in just 400 pages. Thomas’s writing abilities are exquisite, as she manages to pack the novel with intricate details while still adding action to the plot. There was not a single second I felt bored while reading, and at times I felt that I knew Starr so well it was almost as if I was her best friend too. This book can definitely be described as a page-turner, and I read it in about two sittings because it was so captivating. Starr has a very distinct voice, and Thomas effortlessly utilizes it to fluidly move between backstory, character relationships, and pending or immediate action.

A major feature this novel brings to the table is the realness of its characters and accurate representations of all types of people. There is a mix of both kind and cranky elderly people, adults who are surgeons, store owners, ex-gang members, or drug addicts, teenagers with wealthy parents or abusive, drug-dealing fathers, and some sassy seven-year-olds. Though Starr often finds herself stuck in the middle of all these people, each person has a specific place in her heart, and she can relate every part of who she is, or once was, to an influence these people have on her life. Eventually she recognizes, as we all do, that she would not be the same without all these people, good or bad, in her life, and accepts that she cannot change the past and must keep moving forward.

Some characters in the novel are static, and refuse to change their ways or apologize for hurtful actions. As Starr recognizes these traits in one of her friends, she learns that sometimes you have to let go of people in your life to better yourself, which is an acceptable thing to do. Many characters are also dynamic, and discover ways they can be more compassionate and understanding towards others. The Hate U Give is very much a coming of age novel alongside its activist message; the personal growth that Starr experiences is similar to that of any high school student.

An activist message is certainly prominent in the novel as well. The title is discussed multiple times by the characters throughout, as it comes from a Tupac quote. He said that “Thug Life” stood for “The Hate U Give Little Infants F***s Everyone.” Starr and her father talk about this after riots over Khalil’s death, and Starr determines that it is mostly about how society treaties minorities as youth and how that treatment can come back and hurt people’s lives later. Not only does the novel show the events of a shooting of an unarmed teenager, but in detail it portrays the effects that shooting, and the eventual ruling of the case, have on specific people in the murdered teen’s life. This includes those who knew him personally or not at all, and the community in which it happened. To see the shooting from the perspective of a witness to it is extremely empowering and emotional, fictional or not. I highly recommend The Hate U Give to anyone and everyone, as it is an enjoyable read that teaches important life lessons.

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Diversify Yourself: Angie Thomas debuts with a must-read