YA novel shares message of police brutality, heritage

Ella Beiser, Assistant Editor

HITS CLOSE TO HOME. “The Hate U Give” describes Starr Carter’s conflict between the people around her and a fatal police shooting.

Police brutality, racism, gang violence and segregation are all topics that have made headlines in newspapers, on TV and online. These contemporary themes converge in the heart-wrenching “The Hate U Give,” which was among the most popular novels of 2017 and makes its cinematic debut this month.

Author Angie Thomas creates an enlightening story narrated by Starr Carter, a teenager constantly switching between two worlds: one, the poor black neighborhood where she lives, and the other, the wealthy suburb where she goes to high school.

While her classmates are worrying about grades and pressure from their parents, Starr goes home to a world plagued by gang violence and police brutality.

In both of these worlds, Starr struggles with distinguishing herself as an individual. At home, she is known as Big Mav’s daughter who works in the store, and at school she hides her true self for fear of being different. The balance between Starr’s two worlds shatters after the fatal police shooting of her childhood friend Khalil. His death makes national headlines as her community seeks justice for his murder.

Now, Starr is forced to choose between maintaining the uneasy balance between her life and school, and speaking out about Khalil’s death and police brutality.

This storyline is unsettlingly familiar and echos the plots of police shootings happening in Chicago all the time. Perhaps this reality makes this story resonate with readers even more.

At Starr’s school, the issues and topics some students consider important differs from the everyday struggles that Starr and her neighbors face.

Messages in this book, such as how police shootings affect people on a personal level, are thoroughly combed through and Starr’s emotions are conveyed clearly and thoughtfully. It is these crucial details of the book that makes it a must-read for anyone wishing to better understand the complications of police brutality, segregation and racism.

Another key detail to this story is the tone that Angie Thomas takes with Starr’s character. She presents a persona that is easily relatable to and she has a contemporary tone using words and logic that make sense for a teenager.

The most compelling scene is when Khalil and Starr are coming home from a party and are pulled over by a cop. Starr describes how, as a child, she learned from her parents, what to do if she were pulled over by a cop. Khalil did not follow these rules and is then wrongfully shot in a terrifying and tragic scene. Viewers should anticipate this scene in the upcoming movie and hope that the producers do it justice it deserves.

The feature film opened Oct. 5 in select theaters and stars Amandla Stenberg as Starr Carter, and KJ Apa as boyfriend, Chris.