Cindy: I doubt that there are many people who haven’t heard about Angie Thomas’s powerful debut novel, The Hate U Give (2017), which is collecting rave reviews and even has a movie adaptation in the works. Booklist intern Amanda Shepard—who just happens to be a past student and teen book club member of mine—wrote about the book trailer last week, which features an interview with Thomas, and scooped me in the process.
I’m late to the game because when the book arrived and I saw the stunning cover, I made the mistake of showing it to one of my eighth-grade girls. She took it, she read it, she cried, she lost it, and then I cried. I finally got my hands on another copy.
Sixteen-year-old Starr is the sole witness to the unprovoked shooting of her friend, Khalil, during a police stop. And she’s scared:
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.
As in Jason Reynolds’ and Brendan Kiely’s equally powerful novel All American Boys (2015), Thomas gives readers much to think about and discuss as they work through their grief, confusion, and anger over too many black lives lost. I’m grateful for that. I’m just as grateful for Angie Thomas painting a fully rounded portrait of the fictional Garden Heights community and its inhabitants. It is more than a sum of its parts, just as we are all more than the sum of the stereotypes that portray us, black and white. And to that end, when the rumors about Khalil start flying, Starr’s police officer uncle delivers perhaps the most important line of the book, and something for us all to remember in many situations:
He was more than any bad decision he made.
There’s a reason this book is getting a lot of buzz. Read it. Talk about it. Learn from it.