The first time I heard about The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was this past spring when I was researching censorship and banned books. It felt timely and poignant, so I made it one of my vacation reads this summer. It was heavy, thought provoking, and made me cry multiple times. It was also one of the best realistic YA fiction books I’ve ever read. Angie Thomas gives voice to a problem in our nation, and through Starr the book allows readers to better understand what happens inside communities that experience violence from law enforcement. The film adaptation by the same title came out recently and I knew I had to see it. I was not disappointed in the adaptation. While there were a lot of changes made from the book to the film, the heart of the story remains the same. Both are worth your time.
**potential spoilers ahead**
A brief summary: Starr Carter is a sixteen-year-old girl who must navigate between two worlds–her fancy suburban school and her poor black neighborhood. One night she goes to a party in her neighborhood. While there, shots are fired, so her friend Khalil gets her out and offers to take her home. On the drive home, they are pulled over by a cop. During this exchange, the cop shoots Khalil, killing him in front of Starr. Now Starr must deal with the death of her friend while deciding how she wants to use her voice to tell his story.
The film does a great job of translating the first-person POV from the novel into a film; Starr does the narration throughout the film, so we still are able to know what she is thinking. Amandla Stenberg does an amazing job of bringing Starr to life and conveying the many complex emotions Starr experiences. Even through body language and tone of voice she is able to create a visible difference between Starr and Starr 2.0 (what she calls herself at school). As the story progresses, she merges these two different characters, mirroring the change she goes through as she realizes her experiences and community are valid parts of herself.
As Starr merges the two versions of herself, it builds to her stepping forward at a riot and speaking up for Khalil. (For the majority of the story, her identity as a witness to his death is hidden, and she prefers the anonymity.) During the riot, however, she steps forward and admits to being the witness and needing to speak for Khalil. For the entire film, people have been speculating that he was a drug dealer, that he “had it coming,” but Starr points out it didn’t matter what he did in life, the point is that he lived and his life mattered. She ends with the chant “Khalil lived!” She finds her voice and she will not be silent.
One of the most powerful changes made for the film is right after the fire at Maverick’s (Starr’s father) store. Just like in the book, the druglord, King, and his men start the fire; however, in the film when Starr’s parents arrive at the store, they have her little brother Sekani with them. The title of the book/film comes from the phrase Thug Life: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody.” In a visual and heart-crushing scene, the film depicts the reality of this. As the cops roll up responding to the fire, they see Maverick and King both ready to pull out guns on each other–only Sekani is holding the gun instead of his father. He has seen his family be threatened, his house shot up, his father almost arrested, and now this 10-year-old is ready to fight. The hatred he has seen in his community is now coming back to haunt them through him. Could this be another Khalil situation, but with an even younger victim? It takes Starr calling enough and standing with her hands up between her little brother and the cops for everyone to relax and put guns away.
This film gives representation and visualization to a problem in our society. While it is a heavy topic, Angie Thomas has created diverse characters you love to love and love to hate. So whether you prefer to take in stories via book or film, either way I recommend you go jump into Starr’s world in The Hate U Give, because she is a voice we need to hear.
Nerdy Donut is part-academic and part-fangirl. Since her Hogwarts letter never arrived, she earned her PhD in Humanities where they call it a job letting her research and write about the Disney princesses and Harry Potter. When she is not dealing with muggles, she can be found reading young adult fantasy and binge-watching cartoons.