The Hate U Give Chapters 19 – end. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

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. The second instalment came on Wednesday, and this is our final post for this novel.

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 posts 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 19 – the end of the book is where the action really ramps up. Riots, protests, social movement all accelerate. Starr is waiting to hear the outcome of her interview with the Grand Jury, and the social pressures in her neighbourhood are reaching fever pitch. There’s a lot to reflect on in this last section including our overall ideas of the book. So let’s get into it.

Was it important that the book didn’t have a typical ‘happily ever after?’

Yes. I think this makes the story real and conveys the point the rest of the book had been putting across. The narrative would not have held as much weight if we got the desired outcome of the officer being prosecuted. The reality is, the officer was not prosecuted because this is what usually happens ‘in real life’. It’s important to that I read this as a white reader knowing that the risk of police brutality to myself is basically non-existent. It’s important for me to read these narratives and learn about the struggles outside my own so I can use my voice to be an ally.

Do we think our reactions were affected as we are British readers and there are cultural differences between our own experiences and, for example, the school systems and legal systems we have read about in this book?

I’d like to think my emotional reactions to this book were that of a rational human being. Anyone with a reaction other than shock, horror, or anger to the main issues in this book should take a look at themselves. However, I think there certainly was an added shock factor that comes from the cultural differences between British and American cultures. As a British reader it is still madness to me that people can simply be running around neighbourhoods with guns. The idea that Starr was very aware she could have been shot by a police officer for essentially no reason at all is insanity to me as our regular police aren’t just wondering around with guns. When I first moved to London I was shocked to see police officers carrying guns because that is not a standard feature of police uniform here. The idea that students could simply stage a mass walkout at school is also massively different to the way our secondary schools are run. Riots are not a common feature of UK society. In fact they make national news on the rare occasion that they do happen. However this book has helped me to understand why riots happen and are the way people raise their voices. This has also made me think a lot about how racism punctuates British society too and I really need to work on learning more about the systemic problems present in my own country.

This book gives a very strong message to use our voice. Do we use our own voices enough to contribute to society?

This book has made me think about what I actually do to use my voice. I do voluntary work with Girl Guiding UK so I guess I use my voice to empower and lead young girls. However this left me thinking, is that enough? We should be aware of the power of our voice and not choose to refrain from using it.

As a white woman, my voice automatically carries more weight that some of my peers. Which is wrong. I need to ensure I am using my voice to amplify others who are less heard.

I think there is always a way to do more and it’s good that I am more aware of this now.

After reading The Hate U Give, what part of the book resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?

For me it was definitely the learning curve that this book gave me. It allowed me to check my own privilege, and learn about different American societies and cultural experiences to the ones I ordinarily see on television and in films. The insight I will carry will be most is a renewed sense of self-awareness and that I really need to work on learning more about experiences outside of my own. This book has been a very valuable read for me.

Thank you for reading along with us! We’ve really enjoyed this read-along and will definitely be doing some more soon. Keep an eye out on my blog next week for my full review of The Hate U Give.

The Hate U Give Chapters 10 – 18. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

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!

The Hate U Give Chapters 1 – 9. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

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.

Our first section, chapters 1 – 9, follow Starr after she has witnessed her best friend Khalil shot dead by a police officer. Star and Khalil were on their way home from a party when they were pulled over. Khalil was eventually dragged from the car by the officer and shot, despite being unarmed and posing no threat. In fact, he was checking to see if Starr was okay during the ordeal. Starr attempts to continue as normal, hiding this traumatic experience from her school friends who live in a completely different world to the one she is from. She also has to hide this from her community as it quickly becomes clear that local loyalties and gangs come into play in this situation. Starr is terrified and struggling to cope with what has happened to her friend, and witnessing a death for the second time in her life.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Read on to find out my thoughts on the first third of the book. Please go to Kerrie’s blog too and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in.

At the beginning of the book Starr flashes back to her parents having two talks with her as a child. One is about the birds and the bees. The second is about what precautions to take when encountering a police officer. Reflect on that. How is that different from your own childhood experiences?

This part of the book really struck me. It was very upsetting. For a start being cautious around the police is not something I have ever considered or needed to consider. Growing up, I was always told by my parents that if I was in any trouble (i.e. was in any danger), the police were people I could go to for help. Even during my driving lessons no one ever mentioned what it looks like when a police car signals for you to pull over. I have never been pulled over or witnessed anyone else be pulled over. It’s an upsetting realisation that this is not true for everyone, and this is definitely a privilege check for me. This is just one example of many that I learnt something new about cultures other than my own when reading this book. I’ve been left wondering if parents in some communities in the UK are having these sorts of conversations with their children as are undoubtedly happening in the States. It’s completely different from my childhood experiences.

Starr describes the idea that there are two versions of herself. How do her different experiences enhance the story? Can you relate to something similar?

I think all of us can relate to something similar, especially growing up. I certainly know I had a hard time adjusting to fit in to the different circles I found myself in. For me I had a ‘secret’ internet life where I could fangirl in peace away from school bullies. Of course this is different to what Starr is going through, feeling the need to adjust herself because of society’s impressions of her background. I can definitely relate to being a teenage girl and trying to fit in with people I thought were my friends, but I can’t relate to adding cultural differences on top of all that. Starr goes through an impressive transformation in the way she views her own identity. Angie Thomas is able to show this from so many different perspectives due to Starr’s unique position. She goes to a predominantly white private school, and she grows up in a different neighbourhood that is seen by those people as ‘rough’. She is the daughter of a medical professional and an ex-gang member, and she is the niece of a police officer. This allows Starr to provide social commentary on both sides of the debate she finds herself at the centre of; relating to police brutality and race relations. This really helps in teaching me plenty about my own culture too as well as Starr’s situation and navigating her teen years in America.

The success and pitfalls of media and social media is an underlying theme of the book. Baring this in mind, how do you think hashtag culture and internet activism has played a role in our understanding of topics such as police brutality and racism? Is this always helpful?

This is a kind of double edged sword. On the one hand, hashtag culture is the primary method I had of hearing about these sorts of topics growing up. I’m from a small town in the south west of the UK so until I moved to London I had a very limited knowledge of cultures beyond my own with only the media and internet portrayals as exposure. Hashtag culture can be great in raising awareness and spreading a message. With things such as the Me Too movement it’s clear that momentum can be built by a hashtag spreading around the various social media channels. It’s an interesting new age we’re living in when social media can have that kind of influence.

However the other side to that is people simply jumping on a bandwagon, which I think is handled really well in The Hate U Give. Some of the kids at Starr’s school use Khalil’s murder as a reason to skip class. Their reasons for protesting what happened to him are not genuine. This is the danger with internet activism where people are happy to jump on board with the issue for a short amount of time without doing anything productive in real time. Change can’t be made by people with the wrong intentions adding noise from behind a keyboard. Whilst social media is a platform to use your voice, it’s also a way to spread misinformation and hatred.

Starr is deeply affected by this as people who didn’t know Khalil, or know what happened that night, felt able to spread their vicious opinions based on lies and assumptions. Angie Thomas created a very important dialogue about this within her story of deep injustices in society.

What did you learn from the portrayal of societal pressures such as poverty and communities?

Angie Thomas’s Garden Heights Community was so well established and fleshed out with very real and whole secondary characters. I think this is especially important for readers such as myself to learn the stories of these communities that are sometimes governed by gangs. Issues of addiction, domestic violence, gang culture, and community rules are all covered in this story. These issues are often connected and create a vicious cycle that leads into further involvement and often spirals through generations. This book has taught me that it’s not as cut and dry to simply make a choice. Sometimes our decisions are controlled by the situation we find ourselves in and, for the most part, people are just trying to do the best they can for themselves and their families. I also loved how this book showed the beauty of communities outside my very limited white experience. Starr’s family are wonderful. They truly look out for each other and have each others backs. They go to the ends of the earth for each other. They give the kind of support to their immediate family and the family that is their community in ways that I could only hope to experience. These stories are able to be told through the extensive cast of important secondary characters, all of whom are somehow completely fully fleshed out. As I’ve already said this novel is an important learning curve for me.

Let me know your thoughts about this first section of The Hate U Give and come back on Wednesday to read the second part.

Review: Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Only Love Can Break Your Heart, by Katherine Webber

Pages: 400

Published: 2 August 2018

⭐️ 5 / 5

This review is LONG overdue considering I got an early copy at YA Prom and read this book 2 weeks before its publication… What can I say? Life just got away from me.

This novel was, at the time, one of the first contemporary YA novels I had read and was a large part of the reason I have continued to enjoy the genre. Only Love Can Break Your Heart was beautiful and heart breaking and I adored it.

Plot

I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the actions of the characters. This book had a bit of everything. This is a love letter to the Californian desert and a reminder of how important self-care is. It was really interesting to read a book written from the point of view of the popular girl at school. Usually, the YA novels I read follow the misfit finding their way in the world, but I liked this new angle.

Reiko’s struggle with grief is complex and Katherine Webber portrays this wonderfully. It was so real and tangible and heartbreaking. This book really showed how easy it is for life to get on top of you and for everything to unravel. This was the most honest portrayal of the sort of thing I went through during my ALevels and I would really have appreciated having this book at the time. Webber really illustrates the importance of having good friends and family around you to help build yourself up when you’ve reached a complete rock bottom.

I did find the plot a little slow to begin with however once I realised the direction we were heading in and things began to happen, the pace picked up and the novel was excellent.

Characters

For large parts of the novel I found Reiko and Seth to both be extremely unlikeable characters. However this allowed for some excellent character development and I experienced a complete turn around in my feelings towards the characters. The plot was so character driven it’s really hard to say more than I already have. I loved that about the book though.

Final Thoughts

This book was so much about the people and a gorgeous coming of age story I really wish that I’d had when I was 17 or 18. I’d highly recommend everyone to read it. With each novel Katherine Webber writes, she gets better and better so I cannot wait to read whatever she publishes next!

Blurb:

From the author of the acclaimed Wing Jones comes a ‘break-up’ book about a Japanese-American teenager, set in the Palm Springs desert, California.  Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert.

It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.