Starr’s life is split in two. Her home, family and old friends in Garden Heights and the private school where most her class is white. She doesn’t want to appear too ghetto at school, or be labelled as the angry black girl, so she changes who she is. When her friend Khalil is shot by a cop, she is the only witness. She doesn’t want to put herself in danger but how will her friend ever get justice if she doesn’t speak up? How does staying quiet stop this happening again and again…
I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that 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.
The title comes from what Tupac Shakur said THUG LIFE stood for, The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone, which refers to the generational problems causing poverty and crime in black neighbourhoods. Hate begets hate. The cycle of fear and poverty doesn’t give kids a chance to do anything else, to be better. Riots and drugs damage the very neighbourhood the victims live in, which is seen in The Hate U Give.
When Khalil is shot, he is doing nothing wrong and he is unarmed. The media focuses on the fact he did deal drugs, but even if that were true, it doesn’t carry the death penalty, it doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have a fair trial. Starr starts to truly fear the police, worrying that she or her family could be the next ones killed.
Guns scare me. The idea that the police aren’t there to protect you is terrifying. I am privileged by my skin colour but also the country where I live has its head screwed on when it comes to guns. The right to bear arms is a ridiculous right, one which implies you have the right to maim another human being. America, why is this right held so dearly?
Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.
In the UK, scared kids carry knives. In the US, they are carrying guns. In a country where so many people are carrying lethal weapons, it’s hardly surprising that innocent people are being killed. If you are scared someone’s going to kill you, you will react, with all your prejudices firing on instinct. The story briefly touches on the fact it that it is years and years of problems coalescing into that moment where a police officer makes a decision. It’s not designed to make you side with the cop, but I think it’s important it is included. The problem is never one racist cop, it’s something ingrained in the country’s psyche.
Starr is a bit of an outsider and its reflected in her narrative. It’s just not raw enough. I understand the desire to put a high-achieving, middle class kid in this situation, it makes it oh so clear she is beyond reproach. But she always feels safe, looked after by her family and school. Imagine if part the narrative was DeVante’s? Someone who carries a gun, whose parents aren’t there for them, to whom drugs and gangs seem like the only option?
It will be an eye-opening book for many and that’s why it deserves to be a bestseller. On the positive side, it does show how wonderful close-knit community can be even in the worst conditions. Her parents work hard to give their kids a better chance in life, even if that feels them feeling guilty that they are turning their back on the place they came from.
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Book Source: Purchased
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