I feel as though I might be the only person in the world who hasn’t read and raved about this book already. I picked it up recently on the flight home from New Zealand. I knew as soon as I started that this was going to be a really important read. Once I picked it up, I found it impossible to put down, so you can imagine how annoyed I was when the aeroplane lights dimmed and I couldn’t read the pages any more!
I hardly know where to start with reviewing this, and in many ways I really feel it’s not my place to review such an important Own Voices novel (I’m white, I’m British and I have no experience of Starr’s world and the life she lives and I was acutely aware of my white privilege whilst reading). I’m probably just going to rave a lot about all the reasons I loved it and the ways it gave me feels and hope that I don’t make an horrific mess of it and that you’ll forgive me.
For me, Starr’s story comes back to this one stunning quote:
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
Starr is 16 when she witnesses her friend Khalil being fatally shot by a white police officer. It is the second time she has witnessed the shooting of one of her friends: Natasha shot by gang members in her community, and Khalil shot by the police. Let that sink in for a minute: two friends shot in front of her in sixteen years. It is heart-breaking to think that. From the very start of her story I had the constant, stomach-churning feeling of horror that although this is a novel, this story is a reality for so many people.
Starr narrates the story beautifully. Her words are never overly-descriptive, but carefully chosen and constantly have an impact on the reader. The scene where Starr and Khalil are stopped by the cops was equally terrifying and heart-breaking. It is so well-written that you feel as though you saw Khalil’s death yourself. From this point, the novel explores the impact of Khalil’s death on the community, his family and his friends and how it is perceived by the police, the media and the world outside of Starr’s community.
Starr is a very conflicted young girl. To know that at 16 she’s been taught the facts of life and “what to do if a cop stopped me” as being of equal importance really drives home the terror she is faced with in her everyday life. She is torn between “school” Starr and “home” Starr and we see her consciously shifting between the two to keep others happy and trying to hide “all that black stuff” as her friend calls it. As Starr comes to terms with the loss of Khalil she also finds her voice. She calls out her friend’s racism and white privilege. As the only person to witness Khalil’s murder she is under a lot of pressure from all sides, but she ultimately stands up for what she believes is right. Starr shows us that speaking out sounds easy until you have to do it: “I always said if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak” and she shows us what it means to face this fear.
The Hate U Give is just utter perfection. It is one of those books that every person in the world needs to read. Every. Single. Person. So, if you’re reading my little “review” and you haven’t read this yet, get on with it.