“There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads—they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.” Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird
If you don’t go in to book stores to buy your books, you don’t get to chat to the people who work there, invariably book lovers themselves. While treating my niece and nephew to a couple of new books in the children’s section in Waterstones, I confessed to the girls on the till that I had a bit of a thing for teenage fiction myself. They immediately pointed me in to the direction of The Hate U Give and were so effusive about it, that I was not able to leave the shop without bringing it with me. Do believe the hype. This is such a powerful read.
From the start this book is punchy, confronting the reader with the unwarranted shooting of a child. The misfortune of crossing the path of a prejudiced and paranoid police officer while being black and male. Starr is in the passenger seat when her friend Khalil, gets pulled over by the officer for no apparent reason. Moments later, she is cradling him as he slips away, multiple bullets in his back from the gun of white officer.
The Hate U Give makes plain how it feels to be fearful of being just who you are in case that puts you in a stereotyped box, paints you with only the negative traits associated with that stereotype and denies you justice because guilt becomes presumed unless innocence can be proven, though if the bullet is already out of the gun you have already been tried, judged and sentenced, with no chance of appeal.
Starr takes us through her grief for her friend, her guilt that she couldn’t have saved him, not just in that car but in the months leading up to the moment, how treacherous she feels to be with a boyfriend whose skin is the same colour as the man who murdered Khalil, and her discovery of the power of a voice that is brave enough to make itself heard.