Whenever you have books that are really, really hyped, you run the risk that the hype might inflate everyone's expectations so much that the book has trouble living up to them.
That wasn't remotely the case with Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give.
I'd actually started The Hate U Give a little earlier than I'd originally planned because the other book I was reading wasn't grabbing me as much as I'd like. That wasn't an issue here—I was immediately sucked into Starr's voice, and world, and the characters of her life. The Hate U Give juggles several conflicts in Starr's life—the conflict inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, of course, with witnessing Khalil's murder, but also her half-brother and friend living with an abusive father—the neighborhood's most dangerous gang leader, a friend who gets into a dangerous situation, Starr juggling the disparity of going to a private school where she's one of the only Black kids and then going home to her neighborhood, that as dangerous as it can be is her home, her secretly dating a boy from her school, and her PTSD from witnessing her best friend's death. Not to mention the conflict of trying to decide whether to speak up or whether to hope no one outside of Starr's family ever learns she's the one who witnessed Khalil's death.
All of these conflicts in Starr's life may seem overwhelming—and for her, at times, they are—but the way they're written always makes sense as one conflict blends into another into another. Altogether it creates an incredibly compelling plot that keeps you turning the pages, because truly, there are no dull moments.
Then there's the voice. Starr's voice is so powerful, and honestly, The Hate U Give serves as an excellent example of why #ownvoices books are just better when it comes to portraying different marginalized groups. From the constant code-switching, to the cultural nuances, to even the way Starr thinks just felt so incredibly raw, like I was reading a real person's thoughts transcribed unfiltered onto the page. I had the undeniable sense while reading that this book wasn't written for me—and that was a good thing.
To say The Hate U Give is eye-opening and unforgettable is an understatement. I'm not at all surprised it debuted #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and I fully expect to see it win loads of awards, because this book is that powerful and that good.
All in all: read it. And any time you hear someone disparaging the Black Lives Matter movement, give them this book. I really do believe it could change hearts, minds, and lives.
Diversity note: Most of the characters, including the protagonist, Starr, are Black.