The Hate You Give is classified as Young Adult but it is a story for all ages, not only for it’s theme but for its timeliness. Starr Carter is a black teen whose parents, a nurse and an ex-con store owner, have decided that she and her step-brother Seven need to go to a ‘white’ school’ in order to escape the perceived hopelessness of education offered in their home district. Being the only black girl at her school, she learns at an early age how to be black in a white world, meaning black enough to be cool but not black enough to generate racial tension.
The story begins with Starr and her long-time friend Khalil running out of a neighbourhood party after shots have been fired. Khalil offers to drive Starr home but en route, the unimaginable happens. Their car is stopped by a white police officer who ends up shooting and mortally wounding Khalil.
As the news goes viral, Starr’s neighbourhood erupts. Starr’s identity as the witness to the shooting is not made public due to concerns for her safety and consequently, she must deal with the horror of what she has experienced mostly alone. Her school friends have no concept of what she has experienced and her friends from home are caught up in the protests for justice to be served.
Agonizingly, Starr is faced with the decision of going public and telling the real story of what happened, thereby putting herself and her family at risk, or allowing the police and the media to portray the cop as a hero and her best friend as a drug dealer who brought this on himself.
The backdrop of this narrative is the gang culture that runs rampant in Starr’s neighbourhood and the death grip that the King Lords have on everyone. Sadly, Starr’s step-brother is the son of King, the ruthless leader of the gang, and Seven’s loyalty to his mother and sisters is tested by the violence that permeates all aspects of their lives.
And yet in spite of the violence and hatred, a thread of love and loyalty permeates throughout the family and the neighbourhood, both large and small, bringing the reader the slightest hope that this madness will soon end.