As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9.
For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous post and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!
Chapters 10 – 18 are where Starr settles into her new normal. With the help of her parents she is processing her grief and dealing with the backlash that is beginning as a result of Khalil’s death. Starr must deal with police and press interviews and the injustice of the police officer murderer remaining free and simply on reduced duties. We learn further details about the night of the murder, and the tension in Starr’s family and community really begin to spiral. Starr also starts to realise who she can trust and who is not a genuine friend, which I think is a really difficult part of growing up. Here are my thoughts.
Starr and Hailey have a very turbulent relationship that changes throughout the novel. What are your thoughts on friendships changing as we grow?
I think this is a really important character arc for Angie Thomas to tackle. I’m not sure that I’ve read any books dealing with this before. The long and short of it is that Starr and Hailey have been friends since middle school (from what I understand of the US school system I’m estimating that’s early secondary school for us Brits – maybe aged 11 or 12). As the girls have grown into themselves, into young women, Starr is realising that Hailey has started to become a person she doesn’t like. Somewhere along the line their moral compasses diverged and it became an incompatible relationship. Starr doesn’t want to put up with Hailey’s selfish and prejudiced behaviours any more. Hailey cannot see that her words are racist. She’s not a nice person and it takes the trauma of Khalil’s murder for Starr to be jolted towards that realisation.
As I said in the last read-along piece, I can relate to Starr in the way that I very much remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, and therefore this subplot hit home for me. I have had personal experience of being frozen out of my friendship group and realising that the people who were supposed to be my friends were anything but. Angie Thomas approach to this with racism as the cause of the broken friendship was heartbreaking. Starr’s strength to accept that her friend was simply a vile person, that there was nothing wrong with herself, and that she could move on to a better situation with healthier friendships, was a huge part of the character arc. It also highlighted to me that this is something I have never had to experience. Being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with this BS and I don’t think I previously realised that this was something my Black peers are having to face.
We’ve both (Kerrie and I) decided Starr’s parents are excellent characters. Is this something we usually see in the YA books we read? Why do we love them as much as we do?
Honestly Kerrie and I had a little fangirl about Starr’s parents when we Skyped to speak about this book. Lisa, Starr’s mother, is a fierce woman. She’s excellent. Fiercely protective, she knows exactly what to do to help Starr through the aftermath of witnessing Khalil’s murder. She’s got everyone checked in their place, which led to some amusing scenes giving some excellently placed comic relief to the story. Her capacity to love is immense. She can forgive her husband for his mistakes, she loves him unconditionally as she does with their kids. She loves Starr’s older brother Seven as though he’s her own. Honestly she is a FORCE of a woman and she’s absolutely one of my favourite characters in the book. Starr’s father Maverick is also an absolute gem. He always puts his family first whilst having to wrestle with right and wrong, his past life and his current life. He is flawed but the more we learn about him as the story progresses, the more we learn of his heart. He really is just trying to do his best with the circumstances society has constructed around him. I love the scenes where Lisa and Maverick interact. They are funny, totally in love, a little bit messy (which makes them so real), an excellent support system, they’re so much of the heart of this book. I also appreciate that Lisa and Maverick are another cultural example that I need to learn from. They are the adults that characters like Starr will grow into. What the novel teaches us of them is how society shapes these communities and it is a starting place for my understanding.
It’s really refreshing to see a relationship like Lisa and Maverick’s in a young adult novel. I often find the trend in these novels is that there’s usually an absent parent or some sort of ‘broken home’ as the family background. So it’s really nice that Starr comes from a place of relative stability. I’d love to see more of this is ya. Maybe I’m just not reading enough of the correct books?
Family is very important to Starr. How do you think this is handled in the book? What jumped out at you particularly?
Family is portrayed in so many different levels and it really made me consider what makes a family. Starr has a blended family. Her older brother, Seven, is her father’s child and therefore her half sibling. Seven’s siblings are like family extensions through loyalty to their mutual brother. Her uncle is like a second father to her, which causes conflict between some of the adults in her family. Outside of biological family, Starr also has her Garden Heights family, because her community is very much a family. I think Angie Thomas shows more than anything that love and loyalty make families of all different shapes and sizes. I think that was the really important takeaway from this element of the novel.
The way Starr handles what is happening throughout the novel is powerful. What struck you the most?
What struck me most was that this story really deals with exactly what teenagers can do. It shows us that teenagers have strength beyond their years, they can use their brains, they’re principled, and they’re brilliant. It also shows that despite this, and despite the way society may view them, they are just kids. Kids trying to make it through and work life out. One of my favourite scenes of the book is when Starr does the television interview. The answers she gave were just mic drops all over the place. I really appreciate that she was shown with this level of strength in the face of extreme injustice. It’s also clear that she is being strong when that is not easy for her. She doesn’t see her actions as strong, rather what she has to do for Khalil and for her community. She is strong despite being terrified, which is what real strength is. Angie Thomas has created a character who is strong, real, and raw and she is absolutely great. I am also coming to understand that this kind of strength is a necessity, rather than a choice, from Starr and real life Black teens. This is a check on my own privilege in the fact that I would never have to protest to ensure the police murderer of a white friend would be brought to justice, it would simply be an expected result if that kind of thing had happened. What is also becoming clear is that I still have a hell of a lot to learn.
The final instalment of The Hate U Give read-along will go live on Friday, followed by a full book review. Make sure you’re checking back here and over at Wheelie Stagey for full bookish content!