Monday, September 25, 2017

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas/ Read Harder Challenge #24

Though I did not intend to read this book as part of the Read Harder Challenge, I am counting it as one for a few reasons. It fits into challenge #24: Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.  Also, I am very, very quickly running out of time to finish the challenge by the end of the year. (When that invariably happens, I'll finish it out at the beginning of next year...I hate failing challenges.)

Anyway, let's talk about The Hate U Give...

Starr Carter is a sixteen year old from a poor neighborhood called Garden Heights. Her parents have made it possible for her and her siblings to attend a prep school about an hour away from her hardscrabble neighborhood. She finds herself often caught between two versions of herself: the Starr that she is at home among her hardworking parents and siblings and the Starr that she is at her predominantly white school where she often feels the need to rein in her true self to feel comfortable. Though she has friends and a boyfriend at her prep school, there is always an element of herself that she holds back.

Back in her neighborhood, her immediate and extended family are close knit and share a complex history with their town and Starr's father, an ex-gang member turned shop owner is devoted to both his family and his hometown. At a party one night, Starr runs into her childhood best friend, Khalil and is reminded of much she misses him and how much time has passed since the days when they would play together and hang out in her father's shop. Because of a fight breaking out at the party, Khalil offers Starr a ride home and they are pulled over by a cop. The end result of this stop is tragic and, sadly, familiar and results in Starr witnessing the death of her friend at the hands of a police officer.

The ensuing days of news reports and dealing with the loss are harrowing for Starr. Along with her grief and shock, she struggles with what to tell her school friends (and boyfriend) and how to handle living in her neighborhood where everyone will pity her. Knowing how stories like Khalil's often end, she fears the injustice and pain that the investigation into his death will cause everyone.

Starr's story is an important one to read. Because of the political climate we are currently in and the prevalence of police brutality in American society today, fiction about such a pressing problem is vital. Thomas does a brilliant job of inviting the reader into Starr's struggles and the conflicts of being on the edge of two very different worlds. I especially appreciate the references to Tupac (Thug Life) and her "old" parents dancing to Salt-n-Pepa. Starr is a complete character; we follow her not only through this tragedy but also as she deals with the loss of another friend from her past, her conflicts of living in two very different worlds, growing up and dealing with being an adolescent (with all of its accompanying issues), and the bonds and heartaches of family and heritage.

This book has been on my radar for a while now. It has gotten well deserved plaudits for quality and the deeply necessary conversation it sparks around police brutality and the often unpunished killing of unarmed black men by police. That it is a young adult novel makes it even more necessary and relevant, as it introduces such a vital topic to a new generation, many of whom are living the reality that Starr describes.

As for its placement on the Read Harder challenge list: having Starr and most of the other characters be of color in this story gave this novel life. The issues that faced Starr were directly related to her race and background and getting this perspective told in the novel is the only way to do it. I recommend this book to everyone, with a particular focus on young adults of all backgrounds.

Read Harder Challenge

1. Read a book about sports.
2. Read a debut novel.
3. Read a book about books.
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
6. Read an all-ages comic.
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
8. Read a travel memoir.
9. Read a book you’ve read before.
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
12. Read a fantasy novel.
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
14. Read a book about war.
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
17. Read a classic by an author of color.
18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
19. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel.
20. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
21. Read a book published by a micropress.
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.
23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

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