A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Angie Thomas' New York Times best-selling book The Hate U Give won a 2018 Coretta Scott King Author Honor, a Michael L. Printz Honor, and the Oddysey Award for best audiobook for kids and teens. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, it involves the police shooting of an unarmed black teen. The book covers topics of race, interracial dating, political activism, grief, friendship, wealth disparity, police brutality, addiction, and the media's depiction of African Americans. Parents should be prepared to discuss recent and past instances of police shootings, how they were covered in the media, dealing with grief, and possible reactions to the trauma revealed in the book. There is some swearing, additional violence, sexual situations, and drug use in the book, but it's not gratuitous.
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What's the story?
In THE HATE U GIVE, Starr Carter is a teen between two worlds: her school, which is rich, fancy, and white; and her neighborhood, which is poor and black. She navigates this differing terrain every day of her life until her worlds collide when she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend, Khalil, an unarmed black teen. Khalil's death goes viral, and Starr is caught in the middle between the protesters in the street and her friends at school. With the eyes of the world on her, Starr has to decide: Will she say what happened that night? Will it matter?
Is it any good?
Wrenching, soul stirring, funny, endearing, painful, and frustratingly familiar, this novel offers a powerful look at a few weeks in a fairly typical teen girl's life -- with one horrific exception. Sure she worries about school, issues with friends, and her secret boyfriend, but she's also the sole witness to the fatal shooting of her best friend by a police officer. In The Hate U Give, author Angie Thomas manages to bring humanity -- deep, emotionally binding, full-bodied humanity -- to the victims of police brutality and the families and friends they leave behind. The scenarios that revolve around the shooting are achingly routine -- unarmed African American, the media's push to blame the victim, a lax investigation, and a lack of charges or convictions. However, set against the backdrop of typical teen life, of community and family life, the consequences of the officer's actions and the actions others take after the tragedy take on a life and power beyond what any think piece or talking points on the subject could achieve.
The characters in the book are rich, complex, and fully developed. They feel like family, friends, and neighbors, and they give those unfamiliar with life in urban centers an understanding that the setting may be specific but the human condition is the universal. The tragedy and triumph of Thomas' stellar work is that it's very real and heartbreakingly familiar. Teens will enjoy the book for its unfiltered look at life, death, grief, and social and political commentary, while parents and teachers will enjoy the book's well-written and thorough approach to a complex social issue.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how The Hate U Give discusses the media's reaction to police shootings of unarmed African Americans vs. how it reports violence against or perpetrated by white Americans. What's the difference in the language used? Whom and what does the media focus on when it reports the story? Is it fair?
How do you talk about race and other social issues with friends and family? How do you deal with friends who tell racist, homophobic, and otherwise offensive jokes? What about family members who say inappropriate things? Is it better to ignore or confront the person? What are the repercussions of each approach? What strategies could you use to make the discussion less awkward?
Discuss "the talk" -- the conversation that parents of African American and other minority kids have with their children, particularly their sons, about what to do when confronted by the police. Did your parents give you the talk? How does the conversation differ between what minority children are told and white children are told? (Do white children even have this conversation?) Do you think it's fair that there's a difference in the conversation?
- Author: Angie Thomas
- Genre: Contemporary Fiction
- Topics: Activism, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Girl Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date: February 28, 2017
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 464
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Awards: ALA Best and Notable Books, Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors
- Last updated: July 18, 2019
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