"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."
Thomas handles this charged topic with immense tenderness. Starr's account of her friend's murder and the aftermath makes for a raw and often painful read, but Thomas weaves magic into the narrative too. It's a tragedy, but it's also funny, and it's hopeful. It gives young people a voice, asking them to stand strong against the tide and one day, maybe, hopefully, turn it away.
Small, familiar tensions underly the greater tension of the narrative. There are familial relationships to be strengthened. There are friendship battles to be faced. Starr has to figure out some things between herself and her boyfriend. The relationships are complex, stretched taut at times, and entirely authentic. They web, picking up secondary characters, none of whom are flat or two dimensional, all of whom add a little something to the picture. These characters are all vivid and beautifully drawn.
Starr herself is adorable. Her family, including (and maybe especially) her grumpy old nana, is right up there (with the Weasley's) amongst my favourite book families. This is partly due to perfect comedic timing coupled with some sharp dialogue. Example:
"You no gon' say hey to me, Adele?" Fo'ty Ounce asks. When he talks, it jumbled together like one long word.
"Hell nah, you old fool," Nana says. The door slams behind her.
The snappy one-liners and hilarious exchanges are so, so good, and Starr in particular has such a perfect, dry sense of humour.
John Green is not lying, this book is stunning. I was hooked from the first page and stayed so to the bitter end. I'm picking The Hate U Give for a bunch of awards, and was psyched to read that it's heading straight onto film! I think this will make for a powerful cinematic experience and cannot wait to watch.
Many thanks to Walker Books for this review copy. It will be read and reread many times.