Rowyn (rowyn) wrote,

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas

I heard a lot about this book when it was released two years ago; it's a contemporary young adult drama. I've read plenty of YA but I seldom read contemporary books of any kind. Still, I decided to put the e-book of this on hold at the library after I saw a trailer for the movie.

I am glad that I read this book after I started listening to the Fsck Em All podcast. Before I listened to Fsck Em All, I had a vague notion that the American justice system discriminated against black people. But I had no idea how common it was for cops (a) to straight-up kill black people for no reason and (b) that there were basically no consequences for cops for doing so. I'd heard about a handful of cases but I was a white middle-class woman and I thought they were aberrations. Nope. That's the norm. Happens every week. Cop shoots unarmed black guy. Cops release statement giving BS reason why this was justified. Cop is put on paid administrative leave. Initial statement turns out to be full of lies but the lies don't get as much attention as the initial statement so it doesn't matter. Grand jury usually does not indite cop. If he is indited, he's probably not convicted. If he is convicted, he usually doesn't get jail time. Cop is normally not fired. If he does gets fired, he's hired by some other police department and likely goes on to murder some other black guy for the crime of Driving While Black. This is not an aberration. This is the entire system.

Since I went in knowing that this was the whole system, things that might have surprised me or seemed unduly cynical were just "yup, that sure is the American what-passes-for Justice System." In a few ways, the book was less harsh than I had expected. (Spoiler: For example, I fully expected that the cops would try to smear the protagonist as some form of criminal, the same way they smear the murdered black kid as a "suspected drug dealer".)

The Hate U Give is centered on a specific incident of this systemic injustice: the protagonist is the witness when her friend is murdered by a cop. However, the book is as much about the protagonist's life in general as it is about her murdered friend and the subsequent fallout. Her friends, her school, her parents and her extended family all feature prominently. Her uncle -- who helped raise her -- is a cop. This is not a book about how all cops are bad. It is not even about how the cop who murdered her friend is bad. It's about a black teenager trying to find a way to thrive despite all the craptastic systems in place. And about community: how so many people around her are supportive despite the craptastic systems.

It's an excellent book, particularly in the sense of "accomplishing the things it is trying to accomplish." It's evocative of all the complexities and difficulties of its situation. It grapples with all the hard questions and has no pat solutions. And it has so much heart and love that it doesn't feel like a grim book despite how grim the inciting event and fallout all are. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading it. I would give it an 8 on my "enjoyed it" scale; if contemporary drama was actually a genre I liked it'd be a 9, I'm sure. Well done.

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Tags: book review, review
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