The Hate U Give is sure to be in all the top tens this year. It was won by HarperCollins in a thirteen-house auction, so the frenzy started long before THUG saw print. Now that I've learned a little bit about the editing and publishing process from my homie C-Dog, whose book was also sold at auction, I'm curious what THUG was like in its first draft and how it changed with each rewrite. I wonder whether this book about the aftermath of a cop shooting an unarmed Black teen always featured a positive portrayal of a cop and a likeable white love interest.
Protagonist Starr Carter lives in a gang and drug-infested neighborhood called Garden Heights. By day she attends a prep school an hour away. Her parents enrolled Starr and her brothers after a drive-by shooting took the life of Starr's best friend Natasha when the girls were ten. Now sixteen, Starr witnesses another friend's death by firearm.
She spends her days codeswitching, and it's wearing her down. Her suburban prep school friends have no idea what her home life is like, and she's drifted from most of her neighborhood friends except Kenya, with whom Starr shares a half brother. This book is about grief, rage, injustice, love, and activism. The power of the story is its heartbreaking rendering of systemic racism, but what keeps it from being one-note is Starr's struggle to reconcile identities, like this scene when Starr and her family leave their neighborhood, which has erupted in riots, to visit her uncle in his gated comminity,
Smoke's in the air. The good kind though, "You barbecuing."
Keeping her identities separate is self-protection.
I should be used to my two worlds colliding, but I never who which Starr I should be. I can use some slang, but not too much slang, some attitude, but not too much attitude, so I'm not a "sassy black girl." I have to watch what I say and how I say it, but I can't sound "white."
Shit is exhausting.
When some of her private school besties discover that Starr has been keeping much of her personal life from them, predictably they're angry and hurt. But would they have ever been friends with Garden Heights Starr? Could she have revealed herself as she got closer to her school friends? Or would they all have turned away from her as they were forced to confront up close and personal race and class issues?
While on the subject of my curiosity, getting back to the question of whether cops can ever be sympathetic characters, there's this passage
I yell [Fuck the police] too. Part of me is like, "What about Uncle Carlos the cop?" But this isn't about him or his coworkers who do their jobs right. This is about One-Fifteen, those detectives with their bullshit questions, and those copies who made Daddy lie on the ground. Fuck them.
btw, if you're a middle aged white lady or for whatever reason don't get the title's allusion, it's from Tupac Shakur's acronym for Thug Life: The Hate U Give Little Infants Fuck Everybody.