The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is centered around a topical issue: police brutality and unprovoked violence against Black people. Through the main character, Starr, who witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil, Thomas explores the topics of racism, justice, and identity. Despite these heavy topics, Thomas creates an engaging narrative supported by an intelligent and thoughtful protagonist that ends with hope rather than despair.

In his last moments, Khalil moves to check on Starr; the police officer who pulled them over, One-Fifteen, shoots him not once but three times. One-Fifteen’s justifications for pulling Khalil over and eventually shooting him are absurd to Starr and the reader: the officer claims he thought Khalil’s hairbrush was a gun. Nevertheless, the police department refuses to try One-Fifteen, and the grand jury decides there is no reason to charge him. Starr testifies as a witness, though telling the story makes her cry and, at one point, physically sick. Her testimony, her interview, and the protests of the community ultimately come to nothing—at least from a legal standpoint. 

Justice is not entirely absent in this story: King, the leader of the King Lords gang, is arrested for arson after he sets Maverick Carter’s store on fire with Starr, Chris, Devante, and Seven inside. DeVante, a former member of the King Lords, takes this a step further and testifies against King for his drug dealing, hoping that it will help keep King out of Garden Heights for a longer period of time. DeVante’s offer to testify against King in order to extend his prison sentence points to the unfortunate reality that King won’t be in prison forever; he will likely return to Garden Heights upon release, bringing more gang violence with him.

While Starr is aware of the great divide between her identities in Garden Heights and at Williamson Prep, Khalil’s death exposes the extent of her classmates’ prejudice. The students around her are largely unsympathetic to Khalil, believing his death was justifiable because he was a drug dealer and attending protests only to get out of class. Additionally, Khalil’s death alters the way the other students see Starr: whereas she had previously been “cool” because she was one of the few Black students at Williamson Prep, her classmates begin to treat her like a token Black person and feel the need to justify their participation in protests to her.

The pinnacle of her classmates’ prejudice is Starr’s friend Hailey’s suggestion that Khalil deserved to be shot because of his drug dealing. Interestingly, Thomas chooses to sever Starr and Hailey’s friendship completely instead of redeeming Hailey in the end and having her learn from her mistakes. Star chooses to not reconcile with her racist friend, and in doing so, she refuses to downplay her Black identity for her White classmates any longer.

In the end, Thomas denies readers the satisfaction of seeing justice for Khalil and an apology from Hailey. In doing so, she implies that justice for Black people and an end to police brutality will not arrive by themselves—they must be actively fought for. The racism and violence in Garden Heights and surrounding communities will likely continue, as illustrated by Maverick’s speech to Starr’s young brother, Sekani, about how to behave around police. Despite the possibility of this grim future for Garden Heights and the unsatisfactory close to Khalil’s case, Thomas ends the book with hope rather than despair. The satisfaction the reader feels at the end stems not from justice or a sense of closure, but from Starr’s promise that she will continue to fight. She has found her voice and is eager to use it to help her community and honor Khalil.

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