Book Review: The Hate U Give

 In Featured, Youth

It was the day before Mothers’ Day, and I indulged myself with a brand-new hardcover book that I bought from an actual bookstore. For this loyal public library patron, who loves the freedom from cost and clutter that a library card provides, this was a rare extravagance.  The book had to be worth it.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas does not disappoint. A #1 New York Times Bestseller longlisted for the National Book Award, this debut young adult novel has received glowing reviews from young adult super-author John Green, The Atlantic, Newsweek, and countless others.

Author Angie Thomas has given the world a story that is both all too familiar and too often misunderstood. High-school student Starr witnesses a police officer shoot and kill her unarmed friend. As the story unfolds we see her grief, hurt, and fear. We also get a glimpse into how she understands race and class as an African-American student from the poor section of town who attends a fancy private school 45 minutes away. We come to understand her family, her neighborhood, her struggles and questions, and we are gifted with scene after scene of her amazing resilience, grace, and wisdom in a confusing and heart-breaking time.

A Role Model for Becoming Beloved Community

Through well-fleshed-out characters and nuanced considerations of neighborhoods, gangs, religious beliefs, schools, names, and families, The Hate U Give is a valuable resource for any Christian passionate about racial reconciliation. And in narrator Starr, the book provides us a literary role model for the Christian work of becoming the Beloved Community.

Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared. It means you go on even though you’re scared.

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared,” Starr’s mother tells her. “It means you go on even though you’re scared.”As Christians, we are called to live into the dream of the Beloved Community: that blessed Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. For people of faith that means standing up against injustice, using prophetic truths as a means of change, and being brave and going on following Jesus, even when we’re scared, even when things are hard.

What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?

Indeed, says Starr, “What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?” As Christians who come from a rich tradition of prophetic voices, this is the question we ask ourselves as we see the gap between how things are and how they should be, and how we use the gifts God has given us for the building up of the Beloved Community.

A Conversation-Starter

Consider sharing this novel with others in your book club or read it with the young people in your life.

On a road trip Memorial Day weekend, to and from Virginia, my kids and I listened to The Hate U Give as an audio book. The twelve-year-old, the fifteen-year old, and this 43 year-old mom were equally as engrossed in the story and inspired by the characters. I’m grateful the story ended with more than an hour left in the trip, as one of the highlights of the trip was the conversation that followed with my children as we discussed prejudice and bias, privilege and poverty, choices and fate, compassion and passion, anger, rage, and choices.

I don’t spend money on very many books and most of the books I have get donated once we’re done. But The Hate U Give will have a place on my bookshelf and in my heart for a very, very long time.

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The Rev. Stephanie Spellers, canon to the presiding bishop for evangelism, reconciliation and stewardship of creation, and Presiding Bishop Michael Curry belt out the Lord’s Prayer in front of the White House on May 24. Photo: Lynette Wilson/Episcopal News Service