Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The Hate U Give was written by Angie Thomas, it’s about a teenage girl, Starr, who try find her voice after witnessing the murder of her best friend, Khalil. In the novel, Thomas uses real life problems to tell the story of Starr struggle through racism, hate, and oppression. Looking at Thomas’s language and writing choices, she might have written this book to bring awareness about police brutality, racial injustice, and the power of voice.
This book mainly focuses on a teenager point of view as it explores sensitive subjects in today’s society. The intended audience most likely aimed toward young adult. Throughout the book, we can see how Starr struggles with self-identity and indecisiveness about speaking up. This can be an approach for readers who may have not found the courage to speak up or have yet found their voice to relate to Starr. For example, in chapter 3, Starr stated “I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.” (Thomas 27) readers can see Starr hesitation to use her voice as she now the main character of the tragic story she always sees online. It’s a common thing where people speak more than they act, where we make promises to ourselves to do something but once it happened, we back out just like Starr.
Overall, rather than the book targeting a specific audience such as teenager, adult, or people who can relate to the characters, etc. I believe that this book can also be a good read for people who have never had to experience with these issues themselves. Thomas gave Starr a witty and sarcastic personality which brings the novel to a more optimistic tone despite the tragedy that surround the main plot. However, the books also have an undertone that emphasize the anger toward the oppression and racial injustice the characters are facing and fighting against. “When I was twelve, my parents had two talks with me. One was the usual bird and bees. The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me” (Thomas 20). This is a way for Thomas to show the pervasiveness of racial injustice and police violence. That it can affect minorities of any gender and ages. Even at a young age, Starr’s parents already have to inform her about how to behave around police as a minority when it shouldn’t even be something she should be worried about if she did nothing wrong.
I believe Angie Thomas did a good job in portraying Starr as the protagonist of the story. Starr has moment where she can make reader feel frustrated with the way she acts and how she handled things but at the end of the day, she’s still a teenager who went through a traumatizing event. Starr was a teenager throughout the novel, we can see her vulnerability and confusion through her actions, she acted like how a teenager would act and never pretended to be more grown up than she ever was. The Hate U Give also deals largely with Starr’s code-switching habit “My voice is changing already. It always happens around “other” people, whether I’m at Williamson or not. I choose every word carefully and make sure I pronounced them well. I can never, ever let anyone think I’m ghetto” (Thomas 65) and her identity in addition to her fear for safety, privacy, and pressure to speak up as the sole witness at the scene. While the novel gives out a clear message about police brutality and prejudice, it is not overly mentioned but instead Thomas provides a realistic image of a young girl and the issues she encounters in her life whether big or small.
Starr is a protagonist we all expected her to be, afraid but brave. Her character development went from a fearful girl to a strong young woman who stands up for what she believes and for the justice her friends deserve. “Ghetto” is a word that is repeatedly mentioned by Starr and “Ghetto” is a word Starr don’t want to be associated with. In The Hate U Give, there’s two Starrs. Starr at Garden Height who is known as Big Mav’s daughter then there’s Williamson Starr who is modest and proper. Starr uses the technique of code switching to live her lives as two different version of herself. “Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang—if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl”. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto” (Thomas 71). As reader can see, Starr put herself on a pedestal in order to avoid being stereotype. She knows that she must behave and speak a certain way to be taken seriously in a society that has a prioritize standard of respect is.
The book is arranged in different parts taking place after Khalil’s murder. It started out with the main problem then slowly unfold the backstory of the character and ultimately ends with the final decision of the case. Placing Khalil death first then tell his story later provoked more sympathy for his character and his unjust death. At first, the reader didn’t find out the real reason why Khalil sells drug but only the vague answer from Starr questioning that even herself couldn’t fully understand. Thomas later revealed through Devante explaining that the actual reason Khalil did what he did is to pay back his mother’s debt but got caught in the cycle of poverty in Garden Height. I think the arrangement of this book was a way for Thomas to tell the reader that nothing major happens between those time skips. While it successfully create a deeper connection to Khalil and effectively control the flow of information, I think the large time jump can leave the reader wondering what really happen in the intervening time.
The novel provides the reader a perspective on police shooting which offers deeper insight into issues that are currently happening today. For example, the usage of ethos are shown in the interview by One-Fifteen’s father which represent the “Blue Lives Matter” in contrast of Starr’s interview which represent the Black Lives Matter protest. After the grand jury final verdict in favor of the police, the anger and injustice experienced by Starr and her friends spark the riot demanding for justice. The moment where Starr comes into full realization that her voice is her strongest weapon provoked by her feelings of anger and frustration marked the used of pathos in the novel. During the riot, it proved that indeed Starr’s voice is her weapon as she held the bullhorn that was “heavy as a gun” (Thomas 267) asserts how much weigh her voice holds in that moment. Standing on the same street where Khalil was shot, Starr had an epiphany which she is no longer afraid and ready to speak up for justice. The focus on Khalil’s life instead of his death also further show the ethos of Black Lives Matter. Thomas emphasis on speaking up as a power becomes the key to spur a societal change.
The powerful final message of the novel center around the importance of speaking up. A major plot in the story is how Starr deals with the aftermath of the shooting, going from fear to anger and to finally taking action. Starr comes to realize that speaking up and action are the most effective ways to make a change. “Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete” ( Thomas ). This book can serve as an encouragement for readers to find their voices as well. I think that’s the main lesson can take from the book is that Starr realizes her voice matters. Thomas heavily emphasize on speaking up as a power, this theme thus becomes the key that can spur a societal change.