Bibliophobia: 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas
For everyone who didn’t read my earlier post, I’m starting a new review series where I face books that I have avoided for the longest time…
So buckle up and get ready for BIBLIOPHOBIA!
- ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas
Ok! Ok! Back up. Before you all start shooting some nicely worded contempt through the comment section, let me first justify my decision to overlook this book as a young fish.
The first chapter opens with Starr, a teenage girl who is at a party, which Starr describes as this.
“A haze lingers over the room, smelling like weed, and music rattles the floor. Some rapper calls out for everybody to Nae-Nae, followed by a bunch of “Heys” as people launch into their own versions. Kenya holds up her cup and dances her way through the crowd. Between the headache from the loud-ass music and the nausea from the weed odor, I’ll be amazed if I cross the room without spilling my drink.”
This imagery, description and very straight-to-the-point writing style hit my younger self like a truck.
The previous YA I had cautiously dabbled in may have mentioned drugs, alcohol, inferred intimacy and included some swearing, but they were set in semi-realistic if not completely fantastical settings and usually wrapped mature content in a pretty package of vaguely beautiful ‘wave of euphoria’-esque language.
However, it was not this that solely fuelled my reason to blatantly avoid this book for years.
As you probably know, the second chapter ends with Starr’s friend Khalil being shot three times by the police, an authority figure meant to be a source of trust and protection.
At this point, I closed the book.
Don’t get me wrong. At that age, I fully understood that the world was not a picturesque utopia free of social issues. I fully understood that racism, substance abuse, financial corruption and discrimination were all vast issues deeply rooted in society. However, I still had that naive childish hope that underneath all of this, everybody was fundamentally good. (of course I still try to believe this to a certain extent, I just acknowledge that there is more complexity to people than my young brain could comprehend)
What I had just read had revealed the darkest corners of society and it would be fair to say I was utterly overwhelmed. As you can probably relate to, I have always been a very immersed and imaginative reader, and everything that was playing out in my brain was sharply wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. I couldn’t handle it.
So, I was more than a little cautious when I sat down and opened the book for the second time in my life.
I can honestly say it was just as visceral, punchy and authentically real as the first time I picked it up all those years ago.
Reflecting the fight against biased police brutality and discrimination against minorities, THUG tells the story of 16-year old Starr who is caught between her identity as an African-American and the facade she adopts at her mostly-white school, Williamson Prep in order to assimilate. After witnessing the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil (who was unarmed and innocent), Starr must find her voice and stand up to represent not only Khalil, but the fight against injustice, racism and stereotyping that runs rampant in society.
It was still just as shocking to get a small insight into how deeply racist biases and stereotypes are rooted in our society, and the scene of Khalil’s death was heartbreaking in the fact that it symbolises real brutality against minorities outside the fictional realm. This prejudice that particular races are inclined to certain behaviours because of the colour of their skin is not only irrational, but completely disgusting, and the worst part? Although stereotyping emerges in many subtler forms, the legacies of so many people who CAN NOT LIVE OUT THEIR LIVES because of racism-induced brutality is just sickening.
Angie Thomas’ exploration of cyclical poverty through the neighbourhood of Garden Heights is deeply insightful, and she pairs this with a set of complex and emotionally-rich characters who are not simply ‘hero and villain’, but moulded by their experiences and relationships with one another to create a tapestry of feeling. She doesn’t shy away from the messiness of family, friends and first-loves, but most importantly, imbues even the darkest moments of the book with passion, hope and love.
All I can say is that it is needle-in-a-haystack rare to get a powerful read that is as important, relevant and timely as THUG. It is an absolute must-read for every single person out there and with that I can safely say that bibliophobia has transformed to bibliophilia.
Rating: 4.6 / 5 Starrs 😉