“The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas. Narrated by Bahni Turpin. New York : Harper Collins Publishers, 2017.
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
Sixteen year old Starr is two people. The Williamson Starr, who is a good student with aspirations of college, a white boyfriend, and a place on the basketball team with her two best friends. Then there is the Garden Heights Starr, who loves her family, friends and neighbors and never forgets the losses they all have suffered. This dichotomy is front and center in the story, and admirably brought to life by narrator Bahni Turpin in this inspired audiobook.
But this is only one source of conflict that is brought into stark relief in this novel. Another is the relationship between the African-American community of Garden Heights and the police. While leaving a party, Starr and her friend Khalil are pulled over for a broken taillight. The officer, whom Starr only remembers as 115, misreads Khalil’s intention and shoots to kill. Khalil’s death and the reaction of the community have far reaching consequences, both for Garden Heights and for Starr, who has already experienced the death of another friend, years earlier, to gun violence.
The story follows Starr as she navigates her two worlds and the stark differences in their reactions to Khalil’s death. Starr’s Williamson friends decide to strike in order to get out of class. Starr’s Garden Heights friends protest and gangs loot the neighborhood. Starr initially hides the fact that she knew Khalil from her Williamson friends, and hides the fact that she was witness to the shooting from her Garden Heights friends. When Starr decides she can no longer hide at all, these different parts of herself start to come together to form a strong young woman who is dedicated to using her voice as a weapon of truth.
This book accomplishes what all good fiction does, in that the reader (or listener, in this case) comes to inhabit the life of Starr, her family, and the wide-ranging cast of characters that fill her world. Being transported into Starr’s world is at times painful, funny, and difficult, and the empathetic reader comes to understand that decisions to speak or remain silent, to remain in the neighborhood or flee to the suburbs, to date outside one’s race or social class, all have repercussions not only in the life of a 16 year old African-American young woman, but for all of us.
Recommended for readers age 16 and up.
Deana Cunningham is the Branch Manager at May Memorial Library. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.