One of my favourite things about the close of the year is the excitement of the year to come – the shows to await, the albums to look for, and best of all (for a bookworm like me), the books to get excited about. I love poring over the lists and noting down the titles of books I’m looking forward to, and pre-ordering them (or if I’m lucky and know the PR, requesting a proof).
In the 2017 lists, a book the really stood out for me was The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. The buzz around this book was deafening, and so many writers, bloggers and thinkers I admire were flagging it up as a book to watch. So I pre-ordered my copy and awaited delivery.
Set in contemporary America, The Hate U Give follows the story of Starr, a girl growing up in the poor neighbourhood of Garden Heights where her family have lived for generations, and who attends Williamson, a private school in the suburbs. As the book unfolds it becomes apparent that Starr struggles with belonging in either setting. At home she feels distant from peers as her school life and much of her social life takes place away from Garden Heights. Meanwhile at school she has friends with home lives incredibly different to her own, and as the narrative unfolds we see Starr struggling with her status as an outlier at school – her background and ethnicity both singles her out and gives her an allure of cool bestowed upon her by her fellow students due to her perceived otherness.
I read this book last month, staying up too late into the night as I pressed on through another chapter. This is incendiary, vivid storytelling and at every turn I was demanded to think, to question, and to learn. Without giving away any spoilers (this information is in the blurb!), the fragile balance of Starr’s world is thrown off entirely when she is the sole witness to the killing of her unarmed friend, Khalil. This event provides the catalyst for the action of the novel, and a story which left me with as many questions as answers. In the weeks since I’ve read this book I’ve gone back to sections to reread and reconsider, as well as doing a lot of research around the themes and ideas within the novel.
With race as its central theme, this book discussed so many elements of the issues facing contemporary America (and other societies, I have no doubt, but it is the state of play in the US which is being considered here). While I knew a lot about the situation already from the news and documentaries – Black Lives Matter, the shocking number of young black men incarcerated, the thousands of tiny micro- and not-so-micro-aggressions sustained by people of colour each day – reading this book taught me even more and made me want to learn more. All while weaving an interesting, compelling story.
This is YA at its very finest. Five stars out of five, a brilliant book.