I’m here today with a book review on a YA novel I recently finished. As some of you probably know I don’t read YA as a rule. Often I find there is too little substance, too much romance, and generally poor writing all around. Lately, I’ve been increasingly breaking that rule, but only if I think the book will be important, moving, or good in a way that most YA books aren’t.
This book delivered on all three counts.
It’s called “The Hate U Give”, the debut novel of Angie Thomas. The story revolves around a young African-American girl named Starr, who witnesses the shooting of her friend Khalil in one of the opening chapters. Following this shooting is an outcry from her community, and anger across the country, especially since Khalil was unarmed and killed by a white police officer for no reason. Many people try to justify the action by passing Khalil off as a gang member and drug dealer. Starr is the only person who can tell the truth, but doing so turns out to be much harder than she once anticipated.
I had no idea of some of the issues this book brought up. Having been very privileged to grow up in the suburbs, I’ve never witnessed gang violence or the ongoing war of streets. Being white, I’ve never dealt firsthand with racism. So while I couldn’t relate to the character, I still see her struggles. I rooted for her the whole way. And I really liked her. Often I find YA characters to be shallow or two-dimensional, but Starr was genuinely well-written. She felt realistic, and both had flaws – but not so many I disliked her – and strong traits that were admirable.
While it was a debut and I noticed a few phrases in the dialogue or descriptions that could have been improved, they were infrequent and didn’t detract from the rest of the book. And the issues in it were handled with grace and skill.
Overall I would rate the book at four stars. There is strong language, but it’s relevant for the setting and used with meaning, so I didn’t mind. I would recommend it for ages 16+, and truly encourage everyone in those ages to pick it up. You won’t regret it.