I’m not someone to blindly buy into something because of hype. In my experience, 9 times out of 10, the book, movie, etc. that comes heavily hyped doesn’t live up to expectations. Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give (THUG from this point on) is the exception to that rule.
Before I go any farther, I need to add the following disclaimer: Angie and I are friends and critique partners, so my point of view isn’t exactly neutral. That’s okay though, because it won’t be hard for you to find plenty of other neutral reviewers who love this book as much as I do , if you really care to look.
The first thing you’ll notice about Angie’s writing is that she writes in a tremendous voice. In THUG, she writes in the voice of Starr Carter, an African-American girl from the “bad part of town” who also attends an expensive private school in the suburbs.
If you read any books on the craft of writing, it won’t take you long to discover that conflict is the fuel of story. THUG literally drips with conflict; it saturates the book from beginning to end. And the source of the conflict is not limited to the police shooting that drives most of the plot – it originates anywhere and everywhere. There are very few places in the book where the tension decreases.
After finishing THUG on Saturday, I took some time to think about the sources of conflict in this book. I came to the conclusion that there really isn’t a single human antagonist standing in Starr’s way. The policeman who did the shooting isn’t seen in person after the shooting occurs. The other main candidate for antagonist is King, a local gang leader. In the end though, King is brought down by the community, not by Starr herself.
In my opinion, the true antagonist is Starr’s fear, which keeps her from fully coming to grips with witnessing her friend’s death. Starr learns to face this antagonist bit by bit throughout the story before she finally defeats it.
I gave THUG five stars. While it’s comparable to the work of Jason Reynolds in terms of character voice, the amount of conflict and variety of sources of conflict set this book apart. It is an extremely quick read, despite being nearly 450 pages long – it took me less than 2 days to read, and I think I would’ve got done in 1 day if I hadn’t had to work.
This is a book that definitely lives up to the hype it received. I recommend it to everyone who reads books at the YA level or above.