***this is a warning, this review may contain some spoilers***
This question has been going in and out of my head since I read 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas. It was one of the first books I read this year.
I already knew what this book was about. And yet it still hit me in a way I never thought it would.
A black, unarmed teen is shot and killed from a routine police stop. This type of story has been in the headlines for what seems like forever. Same story, different person. This one a boy named Khalil. I still cried over Khalil like he was a real person. Because in a way he was. Even when I knew what was going to happen. I still cried and closed my eyes as I heard the shots that hit his body in my head. I closed my eyes like it wasn't a story that I could put down. But a dash cam or body cam video on my Facebook or Twitter feed.
The story starts with Khalil's death. But like Starr Carter, who was with Khalil when the police stopped him, throughout the book I thought back to those pages where Khalil is stopped. The police said the one of the taillight of the car was broken. That was the reason why the car was stopped.
This is only the second chapter. In this chapter Starr talks about the two talks that her parents gave her when she was twelve. "One was the usual birds and the bees.[ ...]The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me" (20). The chapter goes on to say one of I think the most important sentence that made me question the situation. "I hope somebody had the talk with Khalil" (21).
After chapter two was when the questions started for me. Some were answered while the book was read and finished. Some still kept circling in my head when weeks later the book is sitting on my desk.
Please don't confuse this review for a criticism on the book. The book is beautifully written. I laughed, cried, and couldn't put it down. I related to Starr and her family so much and read the book in two days.
The dynamic that Starr had with her family was real and honest which I do appreciate. There was no sugar coating the struggle she faced with her neighborhood, Garden Heights. The community where gang violence is not just heard on the radio or seen on the news. It is lived, wrapping around a community that still has people in it that love where they come from and don't want to leave.
And my favorite was seeing Starr in two different environments. One with her neighborhood and family, and one with her school. Which was a prep school full of white kids, and how she navigated that was something I related to so much. And I also enjoyed how she dealt with her friend and the micro-aggressive comments that she faces with the people that are in her life.
The story and how the people reacted to Khalil's death was also transparent. There were protests and tanks and city wide curfews. Angie did a great job taking the reader inside the protests when Starr finally joins in after the verdict. The verdict was realistic as well.
Which was funny in a way because I hoped, even when I knew what was going to happen. Like every police brutality case, I hoped for the justice system. Even an imaginary one. To for once be on the side of the people and not the police officer.
I just still have questions that Angie Thomas has made me realize. Questions like:
Would it have mattered if badge 115 was black?
Would it have mattered if someone had a solid talk with Khalil about cops?
Would it have mattered in the trail if Starr started protesting when the protests started?
Would it have mattered if Khalil was more respectful to the cop?
These and many more questions have been popping in and out of my head for a month now. To the last question I would hate to think that the answer is no. Because the cop saw only a thug driving. And all it takes is wrong wrong move. Like we have seen so many times.
I realize that these are some of the questions that go through everyone's head when they see something like this. And I really hope that this book has started some people trying to seek some answers to those questions with conversation. No matter how old they are.
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