The story behind the story. I received an early review copy of this book when I attended the ALA Mid-Winter meetings in January and asked extra-nicely at the HarperCollins booth if there were extras.
(Pro tip: Check to see if there are any ALA meetings happening near you and block those days off on your calendar now. Free books. Lots of them.)
I started reading it about 6:10 AM over breakfast before leaving for school. By about 6:50 AM I was reluctant to leave the house and get to school.
The book talk. I told students that this was the rare book that made literally want to drop everything and read. Starr is at a spring break party when gunshots go off and she and childhood friend Khalil leave the party by car in search of safety. Police pull Starr and Khalil over and end up killing Khalil in what might be a case of mistaken identity.
Why do you think the cops had reason to be suspicious of Khalil? I asked.
Well, he’s a teenager and the people who were at the party were teenagers too.
He was near the scene of the crime when it happened.
Was he speeding away when cops pulled him over ? (The book makes it clear: he wasn’t speeding.)
Was he black?
That’s when I covered up all but the first letters of the acrostic so students could read the title down the page: The Hate U Give or THUG.
“Ohhhhhhh,” students said. “Khalil was probably stereotyped because he looked like a thug.”
Building empathy and understanding for the Black Lives Matter movement. While this book covers a lot of tough teen topics, be ready for readers to proke, prod, and question its support of Black Lives Matter.
Be ready for readers to say, “What about all the cops that keep everybody safe? You can’t be anti-cop.” And “I don’t understand why Black Lives Matter people have to make it about black people. What about white people who just want everybody to get along?” Thomas pre-emptively responds to these readers by giving this book a strong moral core, where there are supportive police officers, kind family members, a grassroots nonviolent community organization, and a terrific white boyfriend along with some villain characters of both races.
Starr is a teenager of the moment. She’s a tumblr addict, she wants you to know that she considers Beyonce a cousin, she nae-naes and hits the quan. She embodies contemporary teens in general and contemporary black teens in particular. In 25 years she’ll appear fuddy-duddy, just as her Jodeci and Juvenile-loving parents are right now.
Patience and stamina. The action happens in the first few dozen pages, and what follows is reaction and rebuilding. This book felt more slowly paced to me than readalike All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Some readers, particularly middle school readers, might find the pace discouraging, so if you include this in a classroom, I’d recommend that readers find a book partner to talk about the book as they read.
Where to buy it. You can buy signed copies from Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi. The book goes on sale tomorrow!
Amy Estersohn is an English teacher in New York. There are as many seasons of Survivor as there are books in her To Be Read pile. Follow her on Twitter @HMX_MSE