“The Hate U Give,” written by Angie Thomas, is a 444-page story that could have been written in one sentence: “police brutality is bad.”
Although the novel illustrates a powerful message, the story is so bogged down by irrelevant characters and unnecessary plotlines that it leaves the reader, well, bored. Those characters and subplots distract from the main themes of the novel and create an incredibly slow pace, making a once-powerful message into a dull story.
The book follows a young black girl named Starr, who is figuring out her place in the world. After a party one night, she experiences a traumatic event with her childhood friend, Khalil, and a white police officer labeled One-Fifteen. This event forces her to open her eyes, look around her, and decide what—or more precisely who—is worth sticking up for.
Angie Thomas does a beautiful job of illustrating the importance of Starr’s struggle with white privilege, the relevance it has in today’s world, and Starr in general. Her character, her development, and the way that Starr deals with the conflict are executed astonishingly well, making her a fantastic main character.
Starr’s view on life makes her relatable to the reader, and her witty comments bring a comedic aspect to the otherwise serious novel.
And yet, the author chooses to drown this out with characters like DeVante or Starr’s older half-brother, Seven. Both figures hold a substantial part of those 444 pages, but contribute very little to the overall plot.
For example, Seven’s primary battle is deciding whether or not to stay loyal to Iesha, his biological mother. He feels like Iesha is always choosing her boyfriend, King, over him, and even when she kicked him out of the house, Seven still feels protective over her. When Iesha shows up at his birthday party uninvited, she gets into a heated argument with Seven that ends in him breaking down in tears.
This heart-wrenching moment between Iesha and Seven is very emotional and memorable for the reader. However, the powerfulness of this scene draws away from the importance of Starr’s conflict with social injustices and, more importantly, how Starr’s conflict reflects in real life.
By using characters like Seven or DeVante who deal with issues radically different from the main focus of the novel, Angie Thomas distracts from the original message and diminishes its importance.
“The Hate U Give” was published in February 2017. In that year alone, 1,147 people throughout the U.S. were killed by police violence, according to Mapping Police Violence.
From all of the reports of people being murdered by police, 25% of them were black, despite only being 13% of the population. Black people are more likely to be harmed, more likely to unarmed, and less likely to be hurting anyone else. This outlines what Angie Thomas was trying to get across in her novel.
However, the difference is that those statistics don’t dance around the facts. “The Hate U Give” spends so much time focusing on characters dealing with conflicts entirely irrelevant for the main plot that the book becomes tedious.
“The Hate U Give” outlines a powerful message; it’s a shame that the execution of it doesn’t bring it justice. Read this book if you’re looking for a long story. Read an article on police brutality, social injustice, or discrimination if you want to be informed.