By Lucy Earl
The Hate U Give was overall a very intriguing and unputdownable book (yes, that is a word, Merriam Webster said so). Although it was difficult to fully immerse myself into this book when I started out, by the time I reached the middle, it was as if my nose was permanently glued into the spine of the book and would not be released from its clutches until I had read the very last word on page 450 (which is the last page for those who don’t know). The title set me on edge at first, The Hate U Give. The letter “U” instead of the word “you” made me uncomfortable due to the grammar inaccuracy, but more on that later.
Reading The Hate U Give was like looking down upon a moment in someone’s life while simultaneously sitting behind their eyes, hearing their thoughts, and marching alongside them as if you had been doing it for their entire life. Yet, the narrative is wrapped up in a tidy novel that manages to contain sentence structures and understandable content despite the aforementioned complications. The narrator, Starr, forces many different perspectives upon you that leaves you on edge while explaining why she’s doing it and making you more comfortable.
Much like “The Hate U Give” references Tupac’s song “Thug Life” and the deep philosophy around “The Hate U Give” standing for the word “thug,” it allows you to understand your discomfort while still being uncomfortable and also gaining comfortableness, and I mean that in the best way possible. The Hate U Give was a very hard read; it was not that the words were difficult to chew through as they swallowed up the familiar world of punctuation, it was the fact that it was emotionally draining to any human who feels even a tiny ounce of compassion every once and awhile, even to a robot who is programed with a miniscule amount of empathy to fill up space on its hardrive, this book is emotionally draining.
The Hate U Give follows a few moments in Starr’s life that are organized in a chronological structure. The first being when her best friend, Khalil, is shot by a white cop and the couple of days that follow. This section is the hardest to get through because the author, Angie Thomas, expertly portrays the raw and painful emotions that are unimaginable to anyone who is lucky and privileged enough to not have to experience such an awful thing. In this part, a lot about Starr is revealed: she lives in “the ghetto” and when she was ten, her other best friend, Natasha, was killed. After that, her parents decided to move her to a private school where she learned to balance her two lives, “the ghetto” life and the private school life. The second part is the beginning of Starr’s journey to speak out against what happened, and without going into much detail for fear of getting into “spoiler territory,” the third is about Khalil’s trial and the aftermath.
Starr’s life is, understandably, extremely difficult and it is deeply taxing on your emotions just to be able to get through the first part of the book because of Thomas’ extremely well done portrayal. However, after you have found yourself figuratively lying on the floor with your heart ripped from your chest after being repeatedly stabbed with a knife laced with every ounce of human compassion you could possibly contain, you will find that the emotional grind is worth the pure beauty and complexity of the story. Starr balances her two lives and finds herself in situations, such as discovering one of her closest friend is actually pretty racist, that tip both sides of the scale, as well as the scale of justice that, despite what the iconic statue shows, does not weigh blindly.
Her emotional journey and arrival at empowerment can be related to many people’s truths, though situations may not be as dire as Starr’s. However, that said, kids like Starr do exist. Kids. Kids who have gone through more than anyone ever should. The book as a whole provides a unapologetic call to action around the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustices that so many people, including me, are enraged about in such a dazzling way that it could quite possibly be put among classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird and admired for many years to come.
Often times I find myself purposefully disconnecting from the current events and injustices that are happening everyday. Not because I don’t want to know about them but because the issues are so taxing that it feels like everyday we are digging ourselves into a deeper hole and the logical, moral solutions seem to get further and further away. However, despite all I’ve said about it being emotionally draining, The Hate U Give is somehow uplifting. Maybe uplifting is the wrong word, the story itself is incredibly awful and there is no “happily ever after” ending, but The Hate U Give is honest. It is honest and awful and gut-wrenching and wholesome and innocent and complex and beautiful. The Hate U Give is such a powerful representation of life that it makes me feel more connected to world issues and refreshes the importance of them in my mind.
After reading The Hate U Give, I would suggest that you buy this book and hide from the outside world for a couple of days to follow Starr’s story, a road of perpetual sorrow that somehow manages to pull itself into a car and turn left, away from the slippery hole of despair, but allowing itself to look back and consider the lessons it taught, and find a middle ground that balances the unbalance of when a life is taken unjustly.
If your office asks you why you have been missing work, do not hesitate to inform them of the fact that you were reading a book like the cultured American you are and “maybe you should try it sometime, Joe, it could do you some good to get that stuck up little nose of yours into a book instead of other people’s business.” But in all seriousness, this is a very good book and I am happy to place it on my “favorites” list, which is very prestigious because I seriously considered not doing so due to the fact that the title has the letter “U” instead of the word “you,” grammar is correct for a reason.