The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a powerful read about gun violence and race relations in America

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a powerful read about gun violence and race relations in America

Main character Starr lives in city where the colour of her skin still matters

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
Published by Walker Books
ISBN 978 1 4063 7215 1

This bestselling novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement has already won numerous awards since its release last year, including the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize last month, and a nomination for author Angie Thomas for the prestigious Carnegie medal. A film adaptation is also in the works. But if a novel was ever deserving of such hype, it’s this one.

The city where 16-year-old Starr lives is a divided one. There are areas where black families live and others where white families live. The two do not mix. Ever.

In The Hate U Give, Thomas has written an important, and at times disturbing, YA novel about what it is like to be black in a contemporary American city.

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Starr, a black American teenager, just wants to live a meaningful life that isn’t controlled by the colour of her skin. She lives in Garden Heights, the city’s “black” section which has a long history and some strict rules.

To give their daughter the best education they can, Starr’s parents send her to a private school with a predominantly white student body. Here, an hour’s bus journey away from Garden Heights, Starr has a white boyfriend and friends who come from privileged backgrounds. It’s a very different world from back home in the “ghetto”.

Starr knows how to balance the two sides of her life – until that balance is tipped in a disturbing direction.

One night, returning home from a party with her childhood friend, Khalil, a white police officer stops the car that the two teenagers are in and orders Khalil out of the vehicle. Before Starr realises what is happening, the cop has taken out his gun and shot Khalil dead.

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Starr is the only witness to this dreadful event, and over the next few days, it becomes painfully obvious that she can no longer keep her two worlds separate.

Starr could keep silent and say she saw nothing. But she can’t. Now, Starr’s testimony at the ensuing trial could destroy both her home community and her chance to make a better life for herself. She is forced into situation that no teenager should ever have to face.

The Hate U Give is a dramatic, honest, and timely novel unafraid to confront issues such as gun violence and race relations. In Starr, Thomas presents a narrator who is funny, engaging, and heartbreaking. It is at times an uncomfortable read, but it is a story that demands and needs to be told and discussed.

John Millen can be contacted on

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
A powerful read about gun violence and race relations in America


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