“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
I love a good quote. This one is from Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give, which follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter who lives in the hood surrounded by poverty and gang violence but goes to school in the burbs surrounded by rich white kids. It ain’t easy, but she’s managed to strike a balance—a balance which is completely thrown off when Starr witnesses her childhood friend, Khalil, shot and killed by a police officer.
The bizarre thing about this incident is that it would almost seem unrealistic if there weren’t countless precedents of it happening in real life. No two ways about it, the main draw of The Hate U Give is its relevant, sensitive central issue. It’s reason enough for many to tote Thomas’ novel as a modern must-read. Social issues in the USA can seem a world away from us here in New Zealand, but I would still argue for its importance in the interest of being an open-minded, respectful world citizen.
That being said, The Hate U Give is like that cake you made that one time—the one that didn’t rise, but still tasted good. It was a good recipe, you just didn’t execute it perfectly. The Hate U Give presents an important issue and important message; thought-provoking, heartrending moments; and a vivid portrait of life in the Air Jordans of a young African-American girl told in a compellingly authentic voice. Some great flavour! But it didn’t rise properly, too weighed down by pointless subplots and high school drama which bogged down the central plot about Khalil’s murder.
The Hate U Give made me uncomfortably conscious of my pasty white pallor, especially due to how the black/white division is portrayed: very black and white, with a token Asian. “You should feel guilty,” the book tells me. “Why?” I ask. “Because you are white,” the book replies. “Oh,” I say, and then proceed to feel guilty for something I can’t control. Yes, I know, that’s what racism does to racial minorities. It’s painfully ironic.
That’s just me and my limited perspective, though. I would still recommend that you read Angie Thomas’ book and form your own opinions. Like I said, it’s good to keep an open mind. At the very least, The Hate U Give helps you understand the side of the story that so rarely gets told or seen. And, as a wise man (Albus Dumbledore), once said, “understanding is the first step to acceptance”.