Saturday, March 04, 2017

Book Review: The Hate U Give

Country roads are endless, or at least when you’re a little kid they feel that way. There are long stretches of road where I’m from where radio stations playing “decent” music wouldn’t reach (Read: In my father's word's "Not Country"). My dad’s old work truck didn’t have a tape deck in it so for some stretches we’d have to fill the time with talking. Sometimes it was silly, filled with bad dad jokes (“What do you think was that last thing that went through that grasshoppers mind when it hit out windshield?” “What?” “His legs.”), and thumb wars, and my bad harmonica playing. Other times it was filled with thought-provoking conversations that always made me feel a little bit smarter but more importantly, closer to my dad.

There’s a scene halfway into Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give where Star is sitting in her dad’s truck, making a trek to a warehouse and filling the mundane ride with conversation. Her father, Maverick is talking to her about Tupac lyrics and asking her to break them down and throws one of her questions back at her with a patented dad move; “What do you think?”

Just like that I’m a 10 year-old, sitting in my dad’s work truck, barely able to see over the dashboard.
The prose in this book have the very same trans-formative powers that turned me into my 10 year-old self throughout. I’m not only transformed into my ten-year-old self though, I’m transformed into Star, angry at the person she thought was her best friend and not having the voice to say so. I’m Star’s mother Lisa, upset that she can’t protect all of the children in their neighborhood the way she tries to protects her own who also works damn hard to make sure her children are protected. I’m transformed into Maverick, trying to educate his children in the ways of the world by making them think for themselves.

And I’m also devastated. This book made me cry no less than six times, and not romantic, sweet tears. If anyone taking the 680 in the last week has witnessed a girl ugly crying in her car…. That was me and I’m not sorry.  

This books takes something very specific and very personal, Star navigating grief and injustice when her friend Khalil is murdered in front of her eyes by police, and makes it utterly universal and relatable. She makes you feel every one of Star’s feelings. Every bump on this rollercoaster is intentional and is meant to shake you to your very core.

But it’s not the highs and lows of this story I’m in love with. It’s the middles. It’s the family prayers and the friendship struggles. It’s the boyfriend drama (drama aside though - Chris might be the best literary boyfriend because of how real and imperfect and how often he gets it wrong but tries to make it right and is by Star's side no matter what. Love him. Go easy Mav.). It's trying to navigate the halls of your high school. It’s the embarrassing moments of hearing your parents talk about sex but realizing they are the most amazing people in your universe anyway.

But the thing that won’t soon leave me is it’s about Star’s journey to figure out who she really is amidst all grief, pain, and terror she’s experienced.

I was my eight year-old self again, realizing my uncle was dead and my other uncles, because of their Hemophilia and the AIDS crisis, were soon to join him. I was that scared child trying to figure out who I was through all of that death.

I know who I am now. As much as I miss my uncles (all six of them) and a few of my aunts, and one tiny baby cousin who didn’t get to experience life, I’m stronger for the journey we went on together as a family. And now? I’m much stronger and wiser for having travelled with Star on hers and I’m very grateful for it. 

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