The Hate U Give opens at a party where we meet sixteen-year-old Starr Carter. Not long after leaving the party she sees one of her closest friends get shot and killed by a police officer. Starr tries to come to terms with her grief as she fights for justice — for her friend and her community.

As Starr tells us her story, we see her straddle two worlds: Garden Heights, the neighborhood where she lives, and Williamson, the prep school she attends. She feels she has to be a different Starr in each place and she keeps these worlds separate. It’s not just Starr who is struggling to figure out how she fits in. Her parents, neighbors, and friends are all coming to terms with this sense of belonging. The setting is most certainly another character in the story, populated with distinct and nuanced characters, embodying the spirit of the neighborhood.

This story is told in first person, and I found Starr’s voice to be spot on — not too snarky and sarcastic, not overly angsty. In other words, I didn’t feel smothered by her tone and point of view. If you shy way from young adult fiction for these reasons, give Starr a chance. She is fun and funny, clever and hopeful. I hope she wins you over too.

I would classify The Hate U Give as a “message” book. Written in response to the Black Lives Matter movement, author Angie Thomas has an agenda. It is clear from the beginning how readers are supposed to react, whose side we are supposed to be on. I knew this, and I was okay with it. Occasionally the story surrendered to “teachable moments,” which felt a bit heavy-handed. Yet, it still managed to produce moments that surprised and convinced me and challenged my preconceived notions.

The story is perfectly paced, giving readers intense scenes when Starr and her family are in precarious situations and then allowing her to reflect on her experience.

You may read The Hate U Give because it highlights important issues in urban neighborhoods, because it provides space for diversity and inclusivity in literature or because it opens the conversation for deeper connections around the movement. But also read this book because it’s a compelling story with dynamic, fascinating, and complex characters.

Five hearts for this one. ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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