“The Hate U Give” is the 2017 young adult debut novel by American author Angie Thomas. The title comes from American rapper Tupac Shakur and his message that the hate and oppression that society shows young black children will eventually come back around, usually in the form of violence; his tattoo THUGLIFE is an acronym that stands for “The hate u give little infants fucks everyone.” The book was adapted into a drama film in 2018 that was directed by George Tillman, Jr.
This young adult novel is told from the perspective of Starr, a high schooler who struggles to reconcile her experiences as a young Black woman. At her predominantly white private school, Starr experiences a lot of normalized racism and learns the strength to speak up: “We let people say [racist] stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments when you shouldn’t be?”
When Starr witnesses her friend Khalil shot by a police officer while trying to protect her, author Angie Thomas knew this perspective would speak to young adults, “In so many cases where unarmed black people lost their lives, the victims were young. Trayvon Martin was 17. Tamir Rice was 12. Michael Brown was 18. When young people see that, they’re affected by it.” The book examines the relationship between African Americans and police, and just how deeply rooted it is in society. Starr explains directly, “When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual birds and bees… The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me. Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot.”
The Hate U Give gives readers the expert breakdown of the full range of emotions Starr is experiencing: when her childhood friend die in her arms, when she testifies against a white police officer even though she’s terrified of the repercussions to her family, and when she realizes that she needs to find the strength to speak truth to power. “I made this book as unapologetically black as possible,” Thomas said. “I know so many girls who have witnessed terrible things. We don’t give them enough credit or support. In the book, Starr finds her voice and her strength and her activism. I want young black girls to read this and understand: Your voice matters, your life matters.”
There are several inconsistencies between the novel and the movie: the movie doesn’t include any mention of DeVante, a member of the local gang who is trying to leave with help from Starr’s father. The family decides to stay in Garden Heights at the end of the movie to help rebuild the community, while in the book they move to the suburbs but keep the store in Garden Heights. The book spends more time explaining how someone’s zip code or how they talk should not determine how they define their real selves. Thomas said, “Especially for young POC, when we enter majority-white spaces, we feel the need to assimilate, to blend in, to prove ourselves. The way you speak should not determine your intelligence.” Seven’s mother was not as supportive as portrayed at the end of the movie; she didn’t attend his high school graduation, and caused a public fight when she arrived uninvited to the party afterwards.
The author had a cameo in the movie during the riot scene, which served as the turning point for Starr finding her voice; she arrives on the scene confused and unsure of herself, but she commands everyone’s attention by the end of it. “[Filming] that night, we made a statement to the world that said, ‘We are here, and we’re going to keep speaking up and speaking out,’” Thomas said, “That’s powerful to me.”
The book has won the following awards:
- William C. Morris Award for best debut book for teens from the American Library Association (2018)
- Coretta Scott King Award for best novel by an African-American author for children (2018)
- Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for teens (2018)
- Indie Award for Best Young Adult Novel from the American Booksellers’ Association (2018)
- Included in the National Book Awards‘ longlist of young adult literature (2017)
- Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis for young adults established by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (2018)