The Hate U Give

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
The Hate U Give Book Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Powerful story of police shooting of unarmed Black teen.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 33 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 116 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explains police brutality from the victims' perspective and shows a broad view of protest strategies, justice, inequality, and the systemic failures that often accompany police shootings. 

Positive Messages

Strong messages throughout The Hate U Give about community activism and togetherness, family strength, courage, bravery, and redemption. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Unlike many books aimed at young adults, this novel is full of positive kid and adult role models. The adults who reach out to mentor and advise the students not only provide guidance but also show vulnerability, which allows the teens in the story to feel comfortable with their own vulnerability. The teens navigate tough situations but show a willingness to learn from mistakes and make amends. 


We see several instances of violence and hear about others. A unarmed teen boy is shot and killed; we see the blood, and we see him die. There are other reports of shootings and deaths as a result. Another boy is badly beaten. A woman is described as being beaten. An older gentleman is attacked by a group of young men; we don't see the attack but we see the injuries. Many threats are made on the lives of various people. A young girl dies in a drive-by shooting and her blood is described as mingling with the fire hydrant water. There are school fights between girls and boys. Buildings are set on fire during riots.


There's talk of an affair between two adults. Teens engage in heavy petting, talk about having sex and condoms. A teen girl is described as being on birth control, and there's discussion of teen pregnancy and the assumption that a married couple is having sex when they go to their bedroom and turn the television up loud. A woman is revealed to be a prostitute.


Conversational swearing by both adults and teens throughout the novel, including "s--t," "f--k," "ass," "bitch," "damn" (and variants), and "nigga," though it doesn't seem excessive. 


Name brands including Jordans, luxury automobiles, junk food brands, and restaurants such as Taco Bell are mentioned for scene setting or to show the disparity between lifestyles. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink alcohol and smoke marijuana at a party. Two adult characters are alcoholics. Adults are described as being addicted to drugs, addiction to crack cocaine is discussed, and both teens and adults are described as selling drugs. We don't actually see drugs being sold, but drug dealing is discussed throughout the novel.

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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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 10-year-old Written by[email protected] August 31, 2017

Amazing book that might just help you step into another's shoes.

Words cannot describe how wonderful this book was. It still comes into my thoughts two months after I finished it. Beautifully written and so poignant. I hav... Continue reading
Adult Written byJune E. November 1, 2017

Most important book of the decade

Racism isn't dead. I've purposely worked to raise my kids in a race inclusive environment so that race isn't what they see. My kids don't d... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bypollydog April 13, 2018


The Hate U Give is an amazing book. The whole concept behind the book is what the characters call "thug life" or The hate U Give Little Infants F---s... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byrzhao101 November 12, 2017


Disappointing and rather offensive. It was also completely dry and devoid of any humor, except for some not-really-funny racist jokes and stereotypes. The chara... Continue reading

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?

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