George Floyd was killed by a white police officer completely unnecessarily. The uproar caused by his death gave new symbolism to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Seeing the awful circumstances of his death compelled me to read novels and educate myself on the discriminations faced by black people on a daily basis. Taking this into consideration, The Hate U Give is a brilliant starting point to read for the purpose of educating oneself and attempting to understand.
Protagonist, Starr Carter, lives in Garden Heights, an American suburb. The novel begins with Starr at a party with her friend Kenya. Gunshots ring out so Starr runs away. From the off, readers are exposed to tension, experiencing a scene where real and imminent danger is prevalent. Thomas’s prose is raw and real for the reader, putting them on edge as much as Starr, a dramatically effective scene. When Starr meets her childhood best friend who offers to drive her home to safety, Thomas’s prose creates a sense of security again and the reader is put at ease
Until, during the drive, a white police officer stops them. He pulls Khalil out of the car, a scene that is so well-written as readers are as shocked as Starr that Khalil has been stopped. When Khalil turns to check Starr is alright the police officer shoots him dead. He apparently thinks he is reaching for a gun. The incident traumatises Starr and she grieves for her friend. This chain of events makes for page turning but heart wrenching reading. When I read this part, my heart ached for Starr and I almost felt as though the scene was unfolding in front of me. I think that is what makes the book so good, Thomas’s writing makes it hard to ignore the reality of the discrimination and brutality faced by Khalil. It really stops you in your tracks and makes you think. The scenes following the murder of Khalil incensed me as I felt such a strong sense of injustice. Reading the book, you want justice for Khalil and the many others like him, killed brutally and needlessly. It is rare that a writer can stir up so much emotion in me, something Thomas does effortlessly.
The novel is very well written as Thomas weaves in education about everyday racism that black people experience. One such example of this is a friend of Starr’s saying that Khalil was a drug dealer. As a result, she seems to justify the officers actions which is a racist and stereotypical viewpoint . It is a novel containing so many thoughts and events that are rarely discussed, such as the evident difference in character Starr exhibits when in Garden Heights in comparison to at school when she changes to fit in. This is something that Thomas highlights, implying that Starr must act differently to be accepted at school which is sad for the reader as they wish she could just be who she is and not face potential discrimination just for being herself.
Another sad topic rarely discussed is Starr’s father coaching her brother on what to say if he gets stopped by the police. It is shocking to read but so effectively written as it makes white people realise that they are extremely privileged as they have never had to think about the situation. This is perhaps an uncomfortable realisation at first but is vital in helping to change your mindset and educating yourself on racism fully.
A particularly interesting scene is when Starr’s white boyfriend Chris meets her family. It is the first time and cultural differences are clear. Despite this, Chris gets on with Starr’s family and it is a positive scene. Also, he joins them in their protests, showing solidarity and love for Starr. It is nice to read because you can sense that he really wants to be there and he enjoys showing his support for the cause. Thomas’s language breaks down possible cultural barriers and makes the scenes easy, highlighting that it can and is possible for other cultures and people to have positive relationships. It mirrors the recent support that many white people have been showing towards the protests happening across the world which indicates real progress fighting against racial inequalities.
The main message The Hate U Give offers is to stand up against racism and can be directly linked with the Black Lives Matter Movement. Now is a perfect time to read this book, particularly after the death of George Floyd. It is a great source of education about racism and a really sad but important read. It is the sort of novel that opens up important conversations about racism. I highly recommend everyone reads this book as a starting point to try to comprehend the realities of police brutality and racism. It is well worth a read.
Words by Olivia Devereux-Evans
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