Sixteen-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 unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
First published: 2017
This is one of those books for which the word “hyped” seems to have been invented. If you’ve spent some time around the online book community this year, you’ve come across The Hate U Give. You can’t not have. Usually, when there’s this big of a hype around a book, I tend to lose interest a little bit, or think “it can’t be that good; I’ll probably be disappointed”.
But not with this one. It’d been on my radar roughly since the time it was announced and I’ve been excited about it ever since. Of course, I wouldn’t be the magnificent creature that I am if I didn’t wait until over half a year after publication before finally reading it. But let’s forget about that detail and move on.
Today, I’m going to give you five reasons why you should read THUG if you haven’t already. Don’t like to be told what to do? Tough luck, my friend. ‘Cause it’s happening.
HERE WE GO.
1. The characters are amazing
Let’s start with this one. I’ve got so much to say about how important this book is because of the issues it addresses, but the fact of the matter is that it’s also just a very good book. The characters are so well-written! They jump off the page at you and feel like real, complex people. There are quite a few side characters, some of them more likeable than others, but they were all so incredibly real.
The same goes for the interactions between all those characters; the dialogue was amazing and felt easy and natural. Both the difficult conversations (and there were a lot of those) and the banter and happy stuff.
2. It actually has family dynamics
Some of you might know one of the things that grinds my gears about a lot of YA novels is the absence of family, and parents in particular (read my discussion post on this topic here).
In THUG, my desire for family dynamics was 100% satisfied. Starr’s family is amazing. They’re very important in the story as well, both in terms of being there to support her when everything goes to shit (excuse my French) and also in the ways family are always important and just there. Annoying siblings, parents being stricter than you’d like, watching sports together – all that jazz.
Oh, and Starr calls her parents her OTP, which is just the most adorable thing ever.
3. Starr’s voice is impeccable #ownvoices
Now, I hate to state the obvious
*looks at picture in the sidebar*, but I’m not black (and I’m also not American). I’m a middle class white woman who grew up in a small city in the Netherlands and still lives there. I don’t know anything about growing up the way Starr does (and so many like her), and I also acknowledge my white privilege. I, or someone like me (i.e. white, among other things), could never have written a book like this. Angie Thomas, however, can, and she did, and she did it SO well, through Starr. Books with own voices (= author and protagonist sharing a marginalised identity) are so important, and THUG shows why.
4. It explains what’s happening in the USA so well
This is the main reason why I’m yelling at everyone about this book. It explains the situation surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter movement in an accessible way, and it sheds light on how deeply embedded the racism and discrimination is in a way that really hits home. I’ve been following what’s going on with #BlackLivesMatter for a few years now, and I still learned so much from this novel. I think it could potentially open the eyes of a lot of people that are unaware of the severity of the problem and the realness of it. It’s a thing. It’s happening and it’s unacceptable.
5. It’s funny and shows there’s light in the dark
For a book that’s at times so heartbreaking and filled with anger and unfairness, there are also a lot of joyful moments. I laughed (or snorted, more like) out loud a couple of times at some of the interactions between Starr and her parents, for example, but also between other characters. The book is written in such a vivid way that the dark moments feel pitch black, but the happy moments feel truly happy. That’s how life works, and the book shows that perfectly.
Have I won you over yet? I do hope so, because this book is one of the most important books I’ve ever read and I’ll probably keep yelling about it for ever and ever and ever, the end.