The bestselling book The Hate U Give has been on the New York Times bestselling list for 76 weeks, is well-loved by students, and has earned considerable praise from the literary community including being named a Printz Honor Book and a Corretta Scott King Honor Book. This was the debut book for author Angie Thomas. In the book, the main character Starr witnesses the shooting of her friend Khail by a police officer. As such the book addresses the intense themes of grief, friendship, racism, and justice.
The book often makes the has been praised for making readers reconsider their views on incidents involving race and police. The book makes an effort to show all sides of the story–the character coping with the death of her friend, the backstory of the victim, the decisions of the officer, the biases of media coverage, and the response of a community torn between two sides of an issue. True to real life, some of the characters in this book believe it is the victim’s fault, but The Hate U Give makes one realize there is so much more to these incidents than first meets the eye.
The book addresses many complex emotional and social issues that leave readers thinking long after they’ve finished the novel. Among the topics addressed are speculation and accusation, discrimination, loyalty, the fairness of the justice system in a society heavily influenced by the media, and more.
The book can put one in another’s shoes where they can experience the issues and trauma that the main character goes through. One Mayfield Middle School student stated, “When other people have been through things, I want to be put in their shoes.” Many people may want to know what it is like to go through certain incidents in life that they would not have a chance to normally experience. Literature allows people to think and learn through this type of vicarious experience.
Despite much praise and popularity, not all opinions on this book are positive. Many negative reviews can be found online. Many posters say that they were afraid to post and to receive mean comments because they did not follow the popular opinion. One of the major issues with the book–especially from parents and teachers–is that there is too much profanity. The book has an average of one profane word for every page. This is in addition to references to sex, drug and alcohol use, and violence. While some justify Angie Thomas’s language use with the claim that it was necessary to capture authentic teen speech, others say it is overboard and limits the audience. For many school districts, the language will keep the book off of school library shelves and out of the curriculum.
Another big problem people had with the book was the prevalence of racial stereotypes. There were stereotypes for all of the characters in the book, mainly centered on race. Several commenters noted that stereotypes applied to all characters with little variance in the depictions.
Despite some negative reviews, and despite the potentially offensive language, the book The Hate U Give is worth a read. Its social relevance and emotional impact cannot be denied.
Fans of the book await the release of the film but fear it will not adequately capture the complexities of the topic in the way the book does so artfully. With a PG-13 rating, it will be released October 19 by 20th Century Fox.