“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
Read in September 2017
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. Just wow.
The story of how this book managed to give me 4 big fat slap in my face.
I’m in awe, as this book was so complete; it had so many different layers, different struggles and different subjects. Reading this book was like being beaten up, painful and raw, and yet so close to what is currently happening in the US. The characters were perfectly written and complex and true, I never had an experience like this reading a contemporary. I know that reviewing this book will be hard, because it deals with really sensitive subjects and also that I could never phrase them better than the author did (so there will be a lot of quotes, sorry in advance). But I’ll do my best as this book made it to my favorite and it deserves being talked about.
“When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees. […] The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me”
This quote was the first slap this book gave me. If I think about myself at the same age, I remembered that I was the one supposed to go see the policeman if I was lost or if someone was trying to hurt me. They represented safety, authority and protection against those who might try to wrong me. Again today, at 25, even though I’m aware of abuse of power and misbehavior from some police officers, I’m still considering them as responsible for my security. Starr got a very different talk with very precise instructions to follow: only speak when spoken to, no sudden move, always show your hands, do what they ask you to. It didn’t stop her from witnessing her childhood friend Khalil getting shot by a white police man only because he thought that “Khalil was up to no good”. A rash reaction based on their skin color as well as the fact that they live in the ghetto.
As I said earlier, I’m in awe with the characterization of every single character we met in this book, they were deeply treated, incredibly well written with as much respect and honesty as if they were the author’s own friends. Sixteen years old Starr is such a developed and multilayered character. What makes her so multidimensional is that she has do deal with a double life, her identity at Garden Heights and the one she created to fit in her white private school. Different friends, different behavior, different way of speaking and even different way of eyeing, Starr created an alter-ego self so that she can be better accepted among mostly white and rich people. That fact itself is the second slap. That she was so molded to believe that those white and rich people couldn’t accept her for whom she truly was that she had to modify her personality to feel like she can belong. Such state of mind at such a young age (as she was just a child when her parents decided to put her in that fancy school) is the proof that something is wrong with the way white people make black people feel / reach people make poor people feel. And the following quotes are further proof of that:
“Maya’s boyfriend, Ryan, happens to be the only other black kid in eleventh grade, and everybody expects us to be together. Because apparently when it’s two of us, we have to be on some Noah’s Ark type shit and pair up to preserve the blackness of our grade”
“They act like I’m the official representative of the black race and they owe me an explanation. I think I understand though. If I sit out a protest, I’m making a statement, but if they sit out a protest, they look racist.”
What I loved the most about this book was the family dynamic. Starr parents are gold, they were actually the healthiest and most realistic family I ever read about in YA. I often feel like parents are not enough represented in YA book, which is a shame considering that YA characters are somewhere around 14 and 18, their parents are supposed to be here, and a big part of any traumatic situation. Here they were perfectly written from head to toes. They sometime fight but they are so in love (Starr even call them her OTP, and I agree, such a great role model), they are present with all their kids, especially helping both Starr and Seven getting through their personal obstacles, they support and give tenderness and also scold sometimes when they get worry, and they always, always want what is best for their kids. They really have the dynamic of an actual family, teasing each other, watching TV together, protecting each other. Also, Starr has the sweetest relationship with her uncle, and she trusts all her family members without compromise.
“Daddy, you’re the worst person to watch Harry Potter with. The whole time you’re talking about” — I deepen my voice “‘Why don’t they shoot the nigga Voldemort?’”
“Ay, it don’t make sense that in all them movies and books, nobody thought to shoot him.”
The interracial friendships and relationships were also so well written. They mixed so well with the racial issues in this book. As The Hate U Give Little Infant Fucks Everyone, the Hate Starr received in this book just because she was black feeds her own hate and prejudice, and you see, even though it’s in human nature to judge by the few criterion and to put another human being in a box, it’s not so simple for Starr. She hates One-Fifteen for killing Khalil, but can’t hate all the cop as her uncle is one. She can’t hate all white people neither as her boyfriend is white. The third slap is that she somehow felt like she was betraying her race, her family and Khalil by dating Chris. And it’s not just because of how Khalil died, but also how her relatives react around white characters (“the bigger issue is that Chris is white. […] Daddy rants about how Halle Berry ‘act like she can’t get with brothers anymore’ and how messed up that is. I mean, anytime he finds out a black person is with a white person, suddenly something’s wrong with them. I don’t want him looking at me like that”)
Here we are at the fourth and last slap. This book doesn’t have a happy ending; Angie Thomas didn’t try to sugarcoat it. Khalil is dead, there is nothing that can change that, but he didn’t get justice either, no matter how many times Starr told her truth. I felt so helpless when I saw that the medias presented Khalil as guilty until proven innocent because he is black and from a rough neighborhood. This novel impacted me so much, as I feel that now I’ve personally being related to one of those injustices. The ending message about using your voice as a weapon was empowering and made me feel so helpless and strong at the same time. I recommend it to any living soul no matter what color you are, what religion you believe in, or what neighborhood you’re living in.
Have you read this book? What did you think about it?