The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas’s debut novel published in 2017 and remained a New York Times young adult bestseller for 50 weeks. Its major success led to a movie adaptation directed by George Tillman Jr. and a screenplay by Audrey Wells (“The Hate U Give,” 2021). Angie Thomas initially wrote a short story version of the novel back in her college days after the shooting of Oscar Grant, an African American male, by police officers. The event resonated with Thomas to the extent that it inspired her to write a story about it. Several similar events also inspired her, and the Black Lives Matter movement contributed to the story’s structure (The Hate U Give: Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give Background, n.d.).
So what is the story about? Why was it such a great success?
The story is narrated by the main character, Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old black girl who resides in Garden Heights, a predominantly black and poor community. She lives a double life where her community and school personality are different from each other. She attends Williamson Prep, albeit the school lacks diversity, and is attended by mostly white and high-status students. Their parents’ reasoning for this is because they advocate for a better education for their children, and neighboring schools could not provide that.
One night, she attends a party with her friend, Kenya, but they end up going separate ways. Later, she meets her childhood friend, Khalil, who she has not seen in a while. As they talked to each other about old memories, they shared with their late friend, Natasha, a shooting at the party goes off, and they leave the party to avoid danger. When they drive off in Khalil’s car, he suggests driving her home, but he gets pulled over by a police officer. The officer, whose badge number is One-fifteen, asks Khalil for his license and registration paper, but he resists and asks why he was pulled over in the first place. The police officer then asks him and Starr to step outside and leave to check on his license. Khalil becomes annoyed and reaches inside his car to grab his hairbrush. Starr warns him not to move, but it is too late. The police officer saw him reach in the car and became alarmed, thinking he might be reaching for a gun. Thus, Starr, unfortunately, witnesses the murder of her best friend, Khalil, by a police officer.
The incident becomes national headlines, and Khalil, similar to Oscar Grant, is portrayed as a criminal. As the sole witness of his murder, Starr faces great difficulty grieving for her deceased friend and testifying for him in court. Despite Starr providing all evidence that indicates the officer’s liability, whose real name is Brian Cruise, the grand jury decides not to indict him. Khalil was also reported to be selling drugs in order to get money to help his family financially. The riots that have been ongoing for the weeks preceding the decision become more violent after the grand jury’s decision.
Despite the story being fully fictional, Thomas accurately portrayed the struggles black people face with law enforcement. Additionally, she did not shy away from discussing other topics related to grief, interracial relationships, differences in social status, media’s portrayal of black people, addiction, and police brutality. Despite it being brutally honest and including offensive language, the very nature of this story gives it its authenticity. And by adding elements from her life into Starr’s character, such as her love for hip-hop, the reader is drawn further into the narrative with its visceral storytelling. Thomas was passionate about telling the story to teens and young adults to raise awareness on the topic of BLM and racism. One quote from Maverick, Starr’s father reads, “When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again. That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life”.
Maverick explains to his daughter that rationalized poverty and violence are the root problems that lead black poor people to the trap which he labels as “hate”. The “hate” the system gives people with low chances of obtaining jobs and living peacefully, and is why they are forced to do unlawful things, such as drug dealing. Since they are forced to do that, it becomes justifiable for the law enforcement to arrest them or even kill them. Thus, it is a never-ending cycle that goes beyond discrimination. That is why it was emphasized in the book and for the BLM movement to speak up about the unfairness of the system.
The Hate U Give is a remarkable novel that raises awareness on the topic of racism in a sympathizable way for young adults to understand. It also shows the difficulty of grieving, but it’s important to remember a lost loved one positively and use that positivity to heal the pain with it.
About. (n.d.). Angie Thomas. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://angiethomas.com/about/
The Hate U Give. (2021, September 28). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hate_U_Give (“The Hate U Give,” 2021)
The Hate U Give: Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give Background. (n.d.). SparkNotes. Retrieved October 1, 2021, from https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/the-hate-u-give/context/ (The Hate U Give: Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give Background, n.d.)