Words are Actions

16 year old Starr Carter lives in two separate worlds. Her private school where she and her brothers are the only black kids (which makes her ‘cool by default’ as she states), and the neighborhood she lives in, which would be seen by most as ‘the hood’. Feeling out of place in both, her worlds begin to collide after a party one night, in which her childhood best friend, Khalil, is killed in a case of police brutality. Now Starr is left with a choice: remain silent and protect herself while letting Khalil’s death go without justice, or risk her safety by speaking out and fighting for Khalil.

In The Hate U Give, a breathtakingly written novel, debut author Angie Thomas gives us perhaps the most socially relevant novel in the past few years, addressing the reality of  racism, police brutality cases, and abusive/toxic relationships.

I could spend hours gushing about every single little thing I adored about this book (no joke - I read it in like two sittings), but I’ll try and keep it short. First, Thomas’s writing. Despite this being her first novel, Angie Thomas writes with such a smooth flow- switching between different vernaculars effortlessly. Her writing had the ability to make me laugh out loud one second, and two pages later, tears were brimming in my eyes. She makes you feel so present - like you’re right beside Starr as she experiences this turmoil. Another thing that made me fall in love was the family dynamic. It deeply reminded me of Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones - despite the hardships, fiercely loyal to each other. It made you want to be a part of their family. For example: despite being an ex-con, Starr’s father is deeply protective and has a heart of gold- he would do anything to make sure his family is safe and happy. Brick by brick Thomas deconstructs many preconceptions held about low-income areas. Yes, there is poverty. Yes there are gangs and it can be dangerous- but nevertheless the sense of community binds everyone together. They stand strong together- it would be hard to not fall in love with all the characters in the novel as they are each given their own story and hardships.

This novel is not only aimed at shedding light on police brutality(the last page in which she names all those recently killed by police without having justice squeezed my heart), but it’s a call out for the white community - to remind those living privileged lives, of that privilege.

Not only that, but Thomas sheds light on backhanded racism ('I’m not racist, I have minority friends but I still make offhanded comments that are racist and I refuse to own up to them and apologize'). She teaches us that sometimes, friends aren’t real friends, and emotionally toxic relationships should be dropped - you can’t always give, you have to take care of yourself. Most importantly Thomas reminds us that everyone has voice. Use that voice to speak up and use that position to help boost and hold up those who are oppressed. If you do not make an effort to create change, it will not happen.

Unfortunately, just like it happens too many times in real life, Khalil did not receive his justice. But it sparked a revolution within Starr and within me. To never stop fighting and to make sure that your voice is heard.

-Nika, (Dusen)Berry Blogger and member of the River Teen Advisory Board