“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
‘Sixtee-year-old Starr lives in two worlds : the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.’
Wow. I adored this book. It’s strange to say I enjoyed a book when the subject matter is racism, police brutality and drug culture, but it blew me away. I will admit that I was unsure of how to review this book. It is a book about police brutality, and the everyday racism that people of colour face, which, as a white woman, I have obviously never had to encounter, so I wanted to praise the book for it’s honesty regarding this but also still be respectful of it. I honestly had a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach reading the whole thing.
As there were no things that I didn’t like about the book, I’m going to tell you some of the things that I did like!
What I Liked
-The writing style. T.H.U.G. is written in the first person, present tense, and it is all told from Starr’s perspective. A lot of the story is told through character’s conversations with each other, and the conversations are written exactly the way they would be spoken, including slang that the character’s use. The author does a great job of changing the speaking style depending on who Starr is speaking too also, you can really see the difference between when she’s speaking to her family and people from her neighbourhood, and when she’s speaking to her friends and boyfriend Chris, from her high school. She uses less slang and fully pronounces her words more clearly when she’s with her high school classmates. This made the book feel authentic and genuine, and it gave me a real feel for the characters and their personalities – especially Starr, who felt like she needed to be two different people depending on her surroundings.
-The relationship between Starr and her family. I loved this aspect of the book. Starr’s family is really close, and loving, and supportive of each other, and it’s really well written. It could be overly sweet and trite, but it’s not, it’s realistic and a pleasure to read. No member of the family is ever left out, or forgotten about in the author’s writing, and there are scenes including each family member, right down to the youngest brother Sekani, showing how much they care for each other. At the same time, Starr’s mother Lisa and her father Maverick, or Big Mav, also demand respect from their children, in no uncertain terms. Manners, and respect for your elders in non-negotiable. I really loved reading the family scenes, they were an anchor in the book.
-I loved how Starr found her voice and stood up to speak out against Khalil’s murder. She called anyone out who seemed to be blaming Khalil, and was forceful in her reminder that he was the one who was shot, while unarmed. She told his story when nobody seemed to want to hear it, and made him a real person to the masses. So many people only wanted to see him as a drug dealer, who was probably going to end up in trouble anyway, and Starr did a brilliant job of reminding them all that he was just a kid, who did nothing to warrant being shot. She did all of this despite her family being threatened. I enjoyed reading her strength, and bravery, and watching that grow.
-The author did a great job of setting the scene, and describing the neighbourhood and surroundings. She perfectly described the run down area, with it’s small houses, chained off park, and the local businesses, including Maverick’s store. I could really visualise the area, which always helps when reading a book. It makes it seem more real. As well as describing the physical surroundings, the author also does a great job when describing the seedier elements of the area, like the different drug gangs handing around, she tells us their different gang colours, and what they mean, and talks about their intimidating behaviour. There really is a tension when reading the book, there’s an underlying threatening feeling to it. There was always that feeling that anything could kick off, and anything could happen. It does a great job of replicating the uneasy feeling that I’m sure Starr and the other residents of the area felt living there.
-Maverick. I usually don’t highlight one supporting character, but in this case, I felt I had to. I just love this character. A former King Lord, drug dealer, he made a deal with his gang leader King, to do time in prison for a crime that King committed, in exchange for being let out of the gang, to raise his children and focus on his marriage, and start his own business. He is an imposing character, very strong willed, and he takes no nonsense from anybody, not even his children. I thought he was a very well written character, both soft and caring with his family, and brave and protective when it comes to dealing with threats, such as police and the gangs in the area. He is so supportive of Starr when she decides to speak out about Khalil’s murder, risking everything for her. He instills a strong sense of pride in his children, teaching them their history, and making sure they are proud of their heritage and who they are.
There are so many more things that I could rave about when it comes to this book, but this review would be about as long as the novel if I listed all of the things I loved. I would just recommend that anyone who hasn’t read it, does so at some stage. I recommend it to everybody.
The Hate U Give rates five out of five stars.