The Hate U Give is the type of book which could prevent many from ever having the ability to say, “I don’t like to read.”
|Publisher||Balzer + Bray|
|Book’s Publish Date||2/28/2017|
|Genre||Young Adult, Urban|
|Good If You Like||Young Adult Novels Focused On Black Girls.
Urban Novels Which Aren’t All Doom and Gloom.
Books Which Can As Much Be Used For Academic Purposes As Just A Means of Entertainment.
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Though Starr’s story isn’t universal, if you are a Black American who is aware of what can happen to you, it is universally understood. Starr is but a teenage girl living in a bad area thanks to lack of opportunity and safety which has cultivated a need for gangs. However, thanks to her father Maverick, a former big-time gang leader, and her mother Lisa, a nurse, Starr, alongside her older brother Seven and younger brother Sekani go to private school out in the suburbs.
This creates a bit of a complex for Starr since it forces her to live in two worlds. One in which she can’t act any semblance of ghetto or ratchet out of fear of being labeled as such, and in another where she doesn’t want to feel like an outsider within her own community. All because she goes to a fancy private school and happens to have a white boyfriend, Chris.
But, thanks to the death of her childhood best friend Khalil, Starr finds her worlds colliding. As word of Khalil’s death reaches her school, there are those like Hailey who don’t treat the situation seriously. Even make it out that someone like Khalil, accused of being a drug dealer and gangster, are better off dead than alive. Meanwhile, back at home, Starr’s sister through Seven, Kenya, is grilling her about staying quiet about being there when Khalil died and not speaking up.
Thus forcing Starr to end the attempt to live in two worlds for it does a disservice to those who know her and has honestly become unmanageable. For the survivor’s guilt, mixed to Kenya and Hailey, in her own way, presenting a call to action, it makes Starr unable to be silent anymore. To code switch and navigate the world as low-key as possible. As you’ve have seen in the trailer, Maverick didn’t name Starr her name for no good reason. As with her brothers, the name was given with purpose and meaning.
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- Maybe I missed it but (it did take me a while to finish this book), how often, if ever, do we hear about Maverick’s people?
It Honestly Was The Book I Needed As A Kid
Growing up, I, like quite a few people, didn’t have much of a fondness for books. I came to learn, later in life, it wasn’t that I didn’t like to read but simply lacked diversity in what was offered to me. In school, there weren’t books like this, not even Maya Angelou, as part of the English curriculum. There was And Then There Were None, Of Mice and Men, and a slew of books considered classics, but don’t necessarily foster a young Black kid’s interest in reading. After all, in those books, I either didn’t exist or people like me were being called the N-word.
Now, luckily I discovered Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and many others later on, as well as found the kind of genres I enjoyed, but what I really wish existed was a book like The Hate U Give. What this book presents isn’t just topical in the now but has relevance beyond just my generation. This book could as easily exist in the 60s, to a certain point, as it will apply 5 years from now. It brings up subjects like code-switching and the issue of urban decay. Especially in terms of, what can really be done after a person has gone to prison and has a record? It presents the importance of community, having something to pass down, and ownership. Not just of property but of your own voice and the power of it.
As much as it is an entertaining read, there are layers to this to be explored and talked about. Making it where, at the very least, it feels like something which, in urban schools, needs to be part of the curriculum. Especially if there is any intention of not just having a book exist for the sake of a test but inspiring a new generation of readers, writers, and people who appreciate the complexities of literature.
Starr and Chris
As said in many a recap and review, I’m someone who can approach a cute romance no matter what the ethnic combination, but my preference has and always will be two Black folks together. However, even on the page, it is undeniable how cute Chris and Starr are. Chris has a little bit of swag to him, is privileged but not clueless, and seems to connect with Starr in a way which shows he has no issue putting in the required effort so their backgrounds don’t clash.
For while there is always this need to question if the white person of the interracial relationship purely has a curiosity, maybe a fetish, there is no need for that here. Though treated as a secret, because Starr knows her dad isn’t fond of the idea of his daughter dating a white dude, again, Chris makes an effort. The biggest ones come towards the end of the book after Starr reveals her connection to Khalil. In those various pages, you realize their relationship is more than basketball and rapping the Fresh Prince theme song. It’s beyond some school thing and is a full-blown, I’m down for the cause and a shoulder to cry on if you need me. Which, if played right onscreen, maybe as tearful of a moment as the tragedies of Starr’s life.
The Hailey Situation
The line, “You can say something racist and not be a racist!” is such an important one. In fact, Hailey’s whole existence is because she represents the grey area a lot of people live in. One which you can’t outright call them racist, yet they surely can’t be considered allies. Instead, like many a stand up comic, they simply wish to say what they say, do what they do, and not really be held accountable for it. Yet, as shown by Hailey getting to say stuff about Maya’s family eating cats or making an offhand fried chicken joke, if you don’t check people they will think they can say whatever. Making it where, down the line, if you muster up the courage to say anything, they’ll be offended for it will feel like you’re trying to change an unwritten agreement that has long worked for all parties.
The Reformed Maverick
While ex-cons making something out of themselves isn’t a new thing, one example off hand would be Ralph Angel on Queen Sugar, Maverick is given a certain kind of undeniable brilliance. While Starr code-switching and living in two worlds is more pronounced, Maverick also navigates this too. It’s just for him, it isn’t as smooth of a transition. For between being a former gang leader, father, husband, and a leader of the community, we see Maverick shift when in certain situations. The way Maverick speaks when King, Kenya’s father, is in his presence, differs greatly than when speaking with Starr. Also, the way Maverick handles Chris is different than when speaking with Lisa’s brother Carlos.
Now, in each relationship, we get to see a different side to Maverick, with the base being all the same. This dude from the block who got street smarts, is a bit gangster, but is also a bit of a softee as well. In a way, he represents what Khalil could be, whether he got charged with a crime or not. And it presents Maverick as a sort of hope in a way. Maybe not for everyone who reads the character, but for those who may not have the best record in life, reading about a man like Maverick who inherited a business thanks to someone giving him a chance, holding down a family, and his kids doing well, that can be a role model. Again, not one for every last person out there, but that’s the beauty of diverse literature. Everyone can get something different from the same text yet still feel personally seen in some way. Even if it is being forced to see a road luckily avoided.
It’s always a beautiful thing where we get a story where we are presented with very few negative relationships between Black men and women. And while King beating the hell out of Seven’s mom, Iesha, to the point of putting her into the hospital, is appalling, you have to appreciate how Seven is down to protect his sister Kenya, alongside Starr, even though she has a much more stable home environment.
The character may not be made into someone worth making a big deal over, but it doesn’t lessen how unfamiliar a character like this seems. Especially in terms of seeing them survive the whole story.
Though touched on before with Maverick, and Starr to a point in the summary, there is a real need to address the complexity of certain characters. To living between two worlds, having to code switch, is something many Black people have to do. Whether woman or man, there is a need, when in a predominately Black, and urban, area, to seem down enough to, at best, not be picked on or, at worse, avoid becoming a target. In a white area, you have to be that shining example, an exemption, or else the Hailey’s of the world will be ready and willing to write you off as just another ghetto hood rat. Maybe even say it to your face. Then blame you if something goes wrong.
But it’s not just Starr, of course. I’d even give Chris props. He is a white boy, who likes Black culture, dating a Black girl. As noted, by what I wrote and how Maverick treats him, there are many obstacles to surmount to show you are the real deal and aren’t just trying to see how the other side lives. Navigating through that must be troublesome as well since you have to prove you are down with the cause. Which for people like DeVante, a friend of Starr’s who becomes close to Chris, is given by birth. Chris, however, has to not let himself think just about how he feels but be more vulnerable and empathetic than he likely was raised to.
I mean, take for instance when he learns Starr knew Khalil and him getting into his feelings. That really could have been it for him and Starr. Because of the bridge these two had to build to reach one another, the complication of not just different ethnicities, but socio-economic backgrounds, they can’t afford that kind of drama. Chris has to be willing to, as he does, be in her world and find ways to make her comfortable in his. Which this book pushes out not just in terms of their relationship, but perhaps allies in general.
I’d even give credit to Iesha. Though there is a bit of criticism that has to be given when it comes to how grown women are handled in this book, we have to take note of her, even Khalil’s mom, who is an addict. Though they aren’t made into fully three-dimensional figures whose choices are complicated, you have to take note how often Iesha probably took an ass whooping from King so her kids didn’t. Perhaps how Maverick using her for sex and then tossing her away, might have felt. Especially considering she went from him to his former soldier.
Heck, that into account and note what Khalil says during his birthday party. When he makes her seem like an absentee parent when maybe, just maybe, she was either recovering from what King did, keeping Seven safe, or making sure his sisters had a chance. Because, never mind King, there are also all his boys to protect Kenya and her youngest daughter from.
The Importance of Community & Activism
From Mr. Lewis’ barbershop, to the BBQ place, neighbors and more, what is presented is a community. It’s not just about Starr’s family, the drama Seven deals with because of his mom – it’s more than that. Khalil’s death isn’t just a personal tragedy for Starr, it is a loss for the whole community. Especially when Khalil isn’t given justice. For that puts everyone on notice of what their lives mean, what their kids, father, sisters, and more lives mean. Even if there is a witness like Starr.
And while the rioting doesn’t bring much more than destruction, it pushes the idea that it’s about making something matter, showing people are pissed. It helps you get why Black Lives Matter block freeways and even jump on platforms during presidential campaigns. When you feel like an afterthought, something disposable, when you finally are paid attention to, you have to capture that moment and make it into a movement. Otherwise, you’ll fade back to the back of people’s minds and something made secondary, if that, once more.
But, jumping back to the importance of community, there is a need to big up Maverick’s role in the community. As a former gang member with a family, an employer, and having what might be the only store in what could be a food desert, you can’t downplay his role in the community. Take what he does for DeVante. Using his brother in law Carlos, he saves that boy from being murdered by King and gives him a brand new life. Heck, before he knew King would have killed him, he gave the boy a job just like Maverick was given a job, and chance, back in the day.
Pushing you to realize how important small businesses are for Maverick isn’t going to do background checks and all that. More than likely, he already knows who you are and is going to judge you then and there, and possibly give you a chance. Making it where, it might not be much money, but it is a start. It helps you get experience so that you could move onto companies with online applications and things of that nature. Where you can make twice as much or, maybe have some sort of income as you figure out a way to start your own business or career.
The Grown Women Feel Underutilized
When it comes to grown women in The Hate U Give, it’s similar to how The Chi is. Women exist, their pain is acknowledged, but you don’t feel like they get to have something besides that pain and their struggle. They are the victims, like Khalil’s mom and Iesha. They are a means of support like Lisa and Carlos’ wife, Pam, but as for fully knowing their story beyond one or two things which define them – usually who they are with or gave birth to, that isn’t here.
In fact, to push things home, Lisa, Starr’s mom, we barely hear her referred to by her name. Maverick, on the other hand, his name is said so much you may think it is said more than Starr, and she is the protagonist. Lisa, however? Similar to how the community refers to Starr as Mav’s daughter, Lisa really is just made to be Starr’s mom. Yeah, she is a nurse, gets a promotion, likes dancing to Salt & Pepa, little things, but her character development, alongside any grown woman, in comparison to Maverick? They all, even put together, pale in comparison. Only Starr’s lawyer, Ms. Ofrah, feels like a person whose life isn’t defined by a man or her kids.
Overall: Positive (Buy) – Recommended | Get From Amazon
While I can’t imagine reading this again, it is the kind of book you keep, share, and don’t want to just be sitting on a shelf or in some warehouse somewhere. It’s the kind of book you want to become part of the education system. Not just in urban areas either. As time goes on, the Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, and etc books need to be replaced. They aren’t the last and only great novels which someone can overanalyze and make deeper than they are.
In the case of The Hate U Give, we get everything a modern book would need to swap with those books. The books which, assuming I’m not alone, make it so reading beyond an article seems like the least desirable way to spend your time. Hence the positive label and recommendation. The Hate U Give is the kind of book which could inspire a slew of new readers, writers, maybe even activist. For the power of this book is that it can act as a catalyst. One which may help or inspire someone to speak about their own hurt and pain, and maybe help others express it.