In the midst of an overwhelming newscycle, I decided to escape in a book. Most of what I read is nonfiction and requires way too much brain power, so I grabbed a fiction book, The Hate U Give. It was the previous month’s selection in the Reading While Black Book Club. I’m always behind and knew nothing about the book, but Jason had told me it was a good, so I started reading…excited to escape into world different and less stressful than my own. By chapter two, Khalil, an unarmed, black teenager, had been murdered by a white police officer, and the only witness is his childhood friend, Starr.
I threw the book down. I didn’t sign up for this shit, I thought. But I was already hooked. Author Angie Thomas does such an amazing job introducing us to Starr, Khalil and Kenya in her debut novel, that you can’t walk away despite the emotional toll that you know lies ahead in the 444 page, Black Lives Matter-inspired novel. As much as you don’t want to engage with the painful content, you can’t stop reading until you find out what happens to Starr, her family and friends.
And despite the heaviness of the content, The Hate U Give, isn’t a depressing and beleaguering read. It’s a smooth read that will take you from tears to laughing aloud to being overwhelmed by instances of love and community. The story Thomas chose to tell is raw, real and all too relevant to the current culture. She uses her words to illustrate the complexities of managing blackness, emotions, family and community. You’re bound to see yourself, family and friends in one of the many relatable characters.
And as amazing as the book is, it is not without flaw. There are some over the top moments that felt very Tyler Perryisque. And as I read the last few chapters I found myself asking, “Is this underdeveloped writing or are the characters just teenagers being teenagers (aka stupid)?” But the questions that loomed at the end didn’t take away from Thomas’ dynamic and sincere storytelling.
As someone who doesn’t escape via fiction often, I’d definitely recommend this gem. And don’t let the Young Adult label detour your. As appropriate as this novel is for teen readers, it’s really a read for everyone.