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September book review

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The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
444 pp. Balzer + Bray / HarperCollins, $17.99.
Spartana Rating: 5 / 5 stars
English 12 Summer Reading List

Philando Castile.

These were the words on everybody’s lips after the murder of the 32-year-old, African-American cafeteria worker by police officer Jeronimo Yanez in June 2016. Castile was fatally shot while retrieving his identification after being pulled over for a broken taillight.Angie Thomas skillfully catalogues the aftermath of a fictional murder similar to that of Castile’s, focusing on a witness called Starr Carter.

Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, was published in February 2017 and was added to the English 12 Summer Reading List this past summer. More current books have been added to the Summer Reading Lists in the past few years in order to garner more interest in reading from students.

“We’ve seen students engage better because of that… If we can do things that are legitimately academically challenging, we can challenge you and help you do well in those classes,” Principal Ginder said. The book is endorsed by Homestead teachers Mrs. Whitt and Ms. Olivero, among others.

Leading with a refrain of “honestly,” Thomas writes in a likable first person as sixteen-year-old African-American girl Starr. Starr is in her friend Khalil’s car when they are pulled over. She sees Khalil get shot when he turns to make sure she is safe. Starr must bring her side of the story to a public determined to see Khalil as nothing but a drug dealer in order to get justice for her friend and the police officer who killed him.

Along the way, Starr encounters blatant racism from her white friends at the preparatory school she goes to. She is also tested by the gang violence of her “ghetto” home. Starr is perpetually concerned with acting too white or too black, and is a perfect example of how police brutality and modern racism affect Americans.

“People… have this pressure to fit in society, and sometimes their home life is different than the life that they lead in public,” English teacher Ms. Olivero said. Starr presents herself in different ways according to the people she is with. She must face stereotyping by her friends and family while dealing with the aftermath of Khalil’s murder.

According to Thomas’ professional website, the novel is inspired in part by rapper Tupac, who said “The hate u give little infants [redacted] everybody.” The saying is an acronym for T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. It is a commentary on the constant cycle of racism and poverty and how they influence each other. Thomas uses this concept to wrap The Hate U Give into a nice 444-page present, hence the title.

The prevalence of institutionalized racism in the novel is frighteningly resonant in today’s world. Through Starr, Thomas shows how the racial stereotypes ingrained within the minds of many since birth can have devastating effects on minority communities.

“I had to stop reading halfway through… because it was just so real,” Ms. Olivero said. “[I had to] put it down for a little bit and come back to it.”

Thomas’ debut novel is an eye-opening masterpiece about activism, race, and being true to oneself. Starr’s ordeal brings to mind the painfully current problem of racism in the American police force, more specifically, assuming someone is a threat only because they are African-American. The Hate U Give provokes thoughts about one’s own perspective on race and how it affects the lives of others every day.

The views reflected in this article are those of the author only.

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