Review of The Hate U Give

graphic by Caroline Tan

At the age of 12, Starr Carter has two important conversations with her parents. The first is the usual birds and the bees talk; the other is perhaps even more serious and life-changing. It was about what to do if Starr is ever stopped by a cop.

“‘Keep your hands visible. Do whatever they tell you to do. Don’t make any sudden moves. Only speak when they speak to you,” Starr’s father tells her. Starr, the protagonist of young adult novel The Hate U Give, knows that her father is serious and keeps his advice in mind, but she never thinks she would ever have to use it. Four years later, as she returns home from a party, she and her friend Khalil are pulled over by an officer. Unlike Starr, it is apparent that Khalil has never been told what to do in the presence of a police officer. He does not do what the officer tells him to do and withholds his license, registration, and proof of insurance until the officer tells him why he have been pulled over. Khalil speaks out of turn, which leads to the officer yanking him out of the car. And worst of all, when the officer’s back is turned, Khalil makes a sudden move by opening the driver’s door to ask Starr if she is okay. He barely says three words before three bullets tear through him. The Hate U Give centers around that event in Starr Carter’s life, following Starr as she watches the life and appearance she worked so hard to maintain crumble down achingly slowly in front of her eyes. Except for her family, no one knows she was the witness sitting next to Khalil the night he died. Her school friends and her boyfriend do not understand her sudden sensitivity, leading to friction.

The book is gripping right from the beginning. The intense and sudden buildup of tension created soon after Starr and Khalil start driving was shocking. The book’s grip never truly loosens until the end; I was moved to tears even after Khalil’s death, not only because of the fact that a young man with a future ahead of him had died mercilessly, but because of the incredibly huge issue that I did not see clearly until now: racism.

Despite media coverage and discussion in school, the issue had never really been real for me. Unlike news reports that only provide strict facts, this book centered around the issues of racism facing one girl and her immediate community. It’s easy to understand and empathize with the awfulness of the situation: when reading this book, I nearly felt like I was Starr. I experienced her pain, her happiness, and her failures. Racism and its related issues beg to be understood in today’s society, and unless we can sympathize with the situation, we cannot do anything to properly mend it.

Even though this book mainly focuses on Starr’s personal struggle, it also illuminates the struggles of the people around her. All these people are experiencing different facets of racism, increasing the connection between characters. For example, while racism, through profiling and assuming one’s character, leads to Khalil’s death, it also leads to Starr’s parents being extremely cautious when approached by an officer or a white person in general. Every character had a perfectly executed story, no matter how minor his or her role, which showed me the immense thought and careful deliberation that was put into this book in order to make it the masterpiece it is. This book is well thought out, it kept a consistent pace, and it was incredible to read — by far one of the most impactful books I have ever experienced.

Due to the popularity of the book, production recently began on a movie adaptation. Although no previews have been released, filming is already underway. I will definitely be watching this movie when it comes out in order to see its similarity with the book. It stars Amanda Stenberg (well-known for her role as Rue in The Hunger Games and more recently, Madeline Whittier in Everything, Everything) as Starr, along with Sabrina Carpenter as Starr’s friend, Hailey, and Kian Lawley as Starr’s boyfriend, Chris. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It carries an important message that can resonate with every individual.

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