The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

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The Hate U Give Summary

The Hate U Give is a 2017 young adult novel about Starr Carter, a teenager who witnesses the killing of her friend Khalil by a police officer.

  • Starr and Khalil are pulled over by a police officer, called One-Fifteen, after leaving a party in Garden Heights. One-Fifteen shoots and kills Khalil.
  • Khalil’s case gains national attention, sparking protests in Garden Heights and at Williamson Prep, Starr’s school. Starr testifies before a grand jury, but the charges against One-Fifteen are dropped.
  • After protesting with her friends and community, Starr inwardly promises Khalil that she will continue to speak out against injustice.


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Last Updated on July 22, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1257


The Hate U Give is a young adult novel written by Angie Thomas and published in 2017. It was a number-one New York Times Best Seller, made the 2017 National Book Award Longlist, and was adapted into a movie in 2018. The book’s setting, events, and characters are largely inspired by Thomas’s own life: the struggle of the protagonist, Starr Carter, to come to terms with her identities and with the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil reflect Thomas’s own experiences after the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant in Oakland, California. 

Plot Summary

The Hate U Give opens with the protagonist, Starr Carter, attending a party in her neighborhood, Garden Heights. Starr is a sixteen-year-old high school student who attends a prestigious prep school across town. She lives with her father, Maverick; her mother, Lisa; and her brother, Sekani; her half-brother Seven often stays with them. Starr is Black and feels out of place both in Garden Heights and at Williamson Prep: at home, she feels she no longer fits in, and at school, she is one of the few Black students in a mostly White student body. At the party, Starr sees her friend Khalil (with whom she shared her first kiss a few years prior), and they discuss Garden Heights and their families. From her conversations with Khalil, Starr realizes that he has likely been involved in drug dealing. This fact is confirmed later in the story, although Khalil only sold drugs to help pay off his mother’s debt. When shots ring out at the party, Starr leaves with Khalil.

Khalil and Starr chat and listen to music in Khalil’s car but are interrupted by a police siren. Starr immediately recalls a talk her father once gave her about how to act around policemen: she should do what they tell her and avoid making any sudden movements. The police officer pulls Khalil and Starr over. 

The police officer asks Khalil for his documents, but Khalil asks why he was pulled over. Remembering instructions from her father that she should always take note of police officers’ badge numbers in interactions with them, Starr notes that this officer is “one-fifteen.” Khalil grows impatient, and the officer tells him to get out of the car and put his hands where they can be seen. One-Fifteen, as Starr mentally refers to him, pats Khalil down and finds nothing.

One-Fifteen orders Khalil and Starr not to move and starts to return to his car, but Khalil moves to the door to check on Starr. One-Fifteen shoots him three times. The officer then orders Starr not to move when she tries to help Khalil. An ambulance arrives, but they can’t save Khalil. Starr’s parents arrive to take her home.

Starr is haunted by Khalil’s death and has a nightmare about it. Her uncle Carlos, a police officer, wants her to go to the police to give her statement; her parents worry about her safety if she testifies and want to give her time to recover. Starr eventually agrees to testify and gives her account of the story at the police station one day after school. 

At school, Starr pretends not to have known Khalil. Her relationship with her boyfriend, Chris, grows tense, and she notices her classmates’ microaggressions and racist comments. The Garden Heights neighborhood begins to stir, infuriated by what happened to Khalil. Starr attends Khalil’s funeral, and a lawyer named April Ofrah approaches Starr; Ms. Ofrah hopes to help Starr speak out and wants to give Khalil’s case national attention. 

A young member of the King Lords gang named DeVante meets Starr and Maverick on their way back from the convenience store one day and informs them that he is hiding from King, the leader of the King Lords. DeVante asks Maverick how he escaped gang life, as he was once a member of the King Lords; Maverick explains that he took the blame when police arrested him and King for possessing weapons and was taken to prison as a result, leaving King indebted to him. King’s debt to Maverick made it possible for Maverick to leave the gang. Maverick decides to help DeVante leave, too.

The police department decides to not charge One-Fifteen with anything, based on “the evidence as well as the statement given by the witness.” Starr hears about this verdict on the news and blames herself for the local unrest, as well as the lack of charges against the officer. The news begins to gain national attention, and Starr must face the fact that some people—including her friend Hailey—think that the shooting was justified because Khalil sold drugs. Starr’s identity as a witness to his death remains unknown to her classmates, including her boyfriend, Chris.  

Students at Williamson join in protests for Khalil and “act like [Starr is] the official representative of the black race,” constantly feeling as if they have to justify their participation in protests to her; the boy who organized one protest did so only to get out of class. Starr and Chris don’t attend this protest but stay in class. Starr meets with Ms. Ofrah, who suggests that Starr give an anonymous television interview about Khalil. Ms. Ofrah informs her that One-Fifteen claims he thought a hairbrush Khalil had in the car was a gun.

Starr gives her testimony to the District Attorney; a grand jury is convening to determine if One-Fifteen should face charges. She also gives an anonymous interview on television. Chris sees the interview with the “anonymous witness” to Khalil’s death on the news and recognizes Starr’s voice. When he asks her about it, she confirms that she is the witness and tells him the truth about her childhood growing up in the projects. Chris reassures her that he accepts her, and they confess their love for each other.

Starr testifies to the grand jury. Ultimately, it is decided that One-Fifteen will not face charges, and riots in Garden Heights ensue. Seven, Chris, DeVante, and Starr make their way to the riots to protest. While driving, Seven, DeVante, and Starr explain to Chris that the projects they are passing through are where Starr grew up. 

The group of teens, Ms. Ofrah, and other community members are involved in an altercation with the police: the police throw canisters of tear gas at the crowd, and Starr throws one back at them. When the cops swarm the crowd, the teens head for a waiting bus to escape. The riots have become violent, and Garden Heights experiences looting and property destruction. Starr and the others are trapped in Maverick’s convenience store when it catches fire but manage to escape. 

King confronts Starr and her family; in revenge for Starr mentioning his drug dealing and gang activity in her interview—though she never explicitly named him—King set fire to the convenience store. When the police and fire department arrive, neighbors who witnessed the arson identify King as the culprit, and King is arrested. DeVante offers to testify against King in order to keep him in jail and out of Garden Heights for a longer period of time.

Starr puts the shame she previously felt toward Garden Heights and her background behind her and accepts both her Garden Heights and Williamson Prep identities. The novel ends with her promise to Khalil that people aren’t forgetting him and her declaration that she won’t be silent, but will continue speaking out.


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Last Updated on January 11, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 982

Author: Angie Thomas (b. 1988)

First published: 2017

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Realism

Time of plot: Present

Locale: Unnamed American city

Principal characters

Starr Carter, a teenage girl

Khalil, her childhood best friend and crush

Natasha, her childhood friend

Big Mav, her father

Carlos, her uncle, a cop

Chris, her white boyfriend

The Story

Angie Thomas's novel The Hate U Give is set in unnamed American city. Starr, an African American teenage girl, lives in a neighborhood called Garden Heights. An ongoing turf war between two rival gangs occasionally rears a violent head in the otherwise close-knit community. The book begins at a "Garden party." Starr, who attends a wealthy and majority-white private school an hour away, rarely hangs with her neighborhood friends, but tonight has made an exception for Kenya, the half-sister of her half-brother, Seven. She reunites with her childhood best friend and one-time crush, Khalil. Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

Gunshots between the gangs break the party up early and Starr leaves with Khalil in his car. He plays her a song by Tupac, explaining that for the poet/rapper, the phrase "thug life" was an acronym for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F——ks Everybody." A police car pulls them over, purportedly for a broken taillight. The officer pulls Khalil out of the car. When Khalil moves to ask Starr if she is okay, the police officer shoots Khalil dead in the street. Starr jumps out of the car to help her friend and the officer aims his gun at her. Starr's parents arrive to take her home.

Starr is stunned and traumatized by the murder, which quickly spawns a chain of events that further change her life. Starr has always been adept at code-switching, shifting between two different identities at school and at home, but Khalil's murder challenges her decision to maintain these two separate Starrs. The Hate U Give is rich with subplots that explore themes related to racial inequality and growing up. A few of them include Starr's decision to cut off a once-close friend, a white girl, who chastises Starr for her activism and makes hurtful comments about Khalil. Starr also makes the decision to open-up to her wealthy white boyfriend about her early years living in poverty, the drive-by shooting death of her friend Natasha when Starr was ten, and her role as the unnamed witness to Khalil's murder.

At home, Starr chafes against the rule of the gangs. She considers and ultimately does snitch on one powerful gangbanger, but she is also forced to reckon with the complicated reasons young people choose to join gangs in the first place. Her father, Big Mav, a former gang member, and her uncle, Carlos, a police officer who is like a second father to her, further complicate her ideas about the world.

The overarching plot of The Hate U Give follows Starr's journey through anger, grief, and self-transformation. After the murder, Starr is driven to give a witness account after media outlets identify Khalil as a gang member and drug dealer, implicitly suggesting that his death did not matter. The truth about Khalil, of course, is much more complicated, and Starr hopes to set the record straight. She is angry when it becomes clear that Khalil is the one on trial, not the officer who shot him. After more self-reflection and riots in Garden Heights, she teams up with an activist and lawyer, and agrees to a television interview. She remains anonymous but makes powerful statements, rallying people to fight for justice for Khalil. She testifies for a grand jury—a grand jury decides if a case will go to trial—but the case against Khalil's killer is dismissed.

Starr decides to protest the grand jury decision. In the book's climactic scene, she grabs a bullhorn and speaks passionately to the crowd of protesters, revealing her identity as the unnamed witness but also, metaphorically, becoming her true, undivided self and using her voice for the first time.

Critical Evaluation

The Hate U Give is Angie Thomas's first novel. Thomas has said that the book was inspired by the 2009 police shooting of Oscar Grant, but elements in Khalil's story bear a strong resemblance to the killings of other unarmed African American men, including the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. After Brown was killed, police officers effectively placed Ferguson under siege. The same thing happens in Thomas's fictional Garden Heights.

The novel, which debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers list for young adult books, was long-listed for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature, was named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Book Award Author Honor Book, and won the William C. Morris YA Debut Award. It received praise from the New York Times and the Atlantic. Writing for the latter, Anna Diamond praised Thomas's "intimate writing style." The "novel's first-person perspective taps fully into Starr's shock, pain, and outrage during the shooting and its aftermath," Diamond wrote. In a starred review for Kirkus, a reviewer wrote that Thomas lays "bare the systemic racism that undergirds [Starr's] world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor." The Hate U Give is an engaging and sprawling story with a host of well-drawn, complex characters.

Further Reading

  • Diamond, Anna. "The Hate U Give Enters the Ranks of Great YA Novels." Review of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. TheAtlantic, 28 Mar. 2017, Accessed 26 Mar. 2018.
  • Ingall, Marjorie. "Y.A. Crossover." Review of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. The New York Times, 24 Feb. 2017, Accessed 26 Mar. 2018.
  • Review of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas. Kirkus Reviews, 15 Dec. 2016, p. 171. Literary Reference Center Plus, Accessed 26 Mar. 2018.

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