Starr Carter is caught between two worlds: Garden Heights, where she grew up, and Williamson, the prestigious private school where her parents send her to protect her from her own community.
Starr learns from a young age to stay quiet around the police, but nothing her dad taught her could prepare her for the night her old friend Khalil becomes a victim of their hate. On their way home from a party they are pulled over, and despite the fact that they were both unarmed and innocent, the officer shoots and kills Khalil while Starr watches from the passenger seat.
The Hate U Give is a beautifully crafted and compelling story that puts the reader in the shoes of this 16-year-old girl as she deals with the aftermath of her friend’s murder. I felt that the conversational tone of the novel helped to form a connection between the reader and the character, and the injustices she endures leave you feeling just as helpless as anyone would in that situation.
The story shines a new light on the already trending issue of racial discrimination in today’s age. We hear stories on the news constantly of police shootings and #blacklivesmatter, but it’s rare for someone outside of the action to really understand the feelings that come along with it.
Starr was the only witness to the events besides the police officers present, and she is caught in the unsavory situation of my-word-against-yours, which clearly puts her at a disadvantage in the trial process. Even after it is discovered that Khalil in fact possessed no weapons when he was shot, the media uses the fact that he allegedly sold drugs to justify his murder.
Starr is overwhelmed with processing with her friend’s death, and in the meantime she is forced to assume a whole different identity at school. She attends a private school called Williamson, surrounded by kids that come from money and live in high-scale neighborhoods that Garden Heights can’t compare with. She feels out of place at school despite her group of friends, and feels the need to censor herself around them to avoid being perceived as “ghetto.”
I found the opinions of her classmates to be very powerful to the meaning of the story, because they only farther outline the helplessness Starr is feeling. She puts up with a few racist comments here and there from her friend Haley, but things start to change when the conversation turns to Khalil and Starr begins to learn how to stand up for herself.
Throughout the course of the novel, Starr makes a transformation from a girl who is taught to keep her mouth shut to a girl who leads a revolution. Overall, The Hate U Give is an empowering and inspiring reading experience, and I believe it is important for people of every background to read this book and understand Thomas’s message in her writing.