Review Of The Hate U Give By Angie Thomas
The young adult novel The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas focuses On Star Carter, a young black teen who commutes daily from her low income neighborhood to her predominantly white suburban preparatory high school. After a party, Star witnesses her childhood friend Khalil being shot in the back by a police officer during a traffic stop. Star struggles to decide whether or not she should come forward as a witness to the shooting to prove it was racially motivated. Revealing herself could potentially ostracize herself from her classmates or endanger herself to a local gang conflict. Thomas was inspired by the shooting of Oscar Grant III in 2009, after finding the majority of her white college classmates felt that he “deserved it”. Thomas also cites the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement as inspiration.
The 2017 New York Times article “New Crop of Young Adult Novels Explores Race and Police Brutality” by Alexandra Alter provides insight on the recent expansion of young adult novels. While nonfiction has been tackling the subjects of police brutality, BLM, and racial profiling for some time, fiction has begun to spring up. The number of black fictional characters may have increased dramatically in recent years, but the number of black authors has stagnated. Alter argues that these novels can not only help frame and illuminate the persistence of racial injustice for impressionable. readers, but also provide further representation for young black readers, who may not feel represented in popular Y.A. novels such as Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars.
Young adult novels all have one thing in common: high emotional stakes. Being written in the point of view of youth, they are able to give a voice in not only fiction but in our current society. Y.A. creates a safe space to experience intense emotional events, a “rehearsal for life”. Y.A. combined with Social Fiction (literature that address a social issue current for when it was written) are crucial to shaping youth culture. Typically met with some form of resistance or censorship, Y.A. has tackled current topics from drug addiction (Crank by Ellen Hopkins) to sexual assault (Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson). Adding police brutality and racial profiling onto the growing list of current topics only makes sense. Writing about such subjects provides a voice for teens to know they are not alone and familiarize themselves with healthy ways to cope.
The Hate U Give’s immediate critical and commercial success proves that there is an interest and market for books addressing these issues.
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