"The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas

If you’re looking for a book about a plucky heroine overcoming tremendous odds to reach her dreams, this might not be the book for you.

If you’re looking for a book into which you can escape to a fantasy realm for a few hours, this also might not be the book for you.

If, however, you are looking for a book that will grab your attention, make you a little uncomfortable, and give you hope for the future, then take some time to read “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas.

Though it is written for a teen audience and from a teen perspective, this novel about a regular girl who finds herself in extraordinary circumstances has plenty to say to everyone.

The story centers on 16-year-old Starr Carter, a girl who works hard to maintain the balance between the two worlds she inhabits: the fancy suburban private school she attends and the poor black neighborhood where she lives.

Any illusion of balance is crushed, however, when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer — a shooting in which Khalil was unarmed. The aftermath of this tragedy makes up the core of this intense and timely story.

On the surface, this might seem like just another issues novel — a way to bring the topic of police shootings to a wider audience — but once you look deeper, you realize “The Hate U Give” is also the story of a teenage girl dealing with pretty typical teenage things, like friendships, romance and school.

A big difference between this book and many other teen books, however, is that all of these typical teenage things are happening against the backdrop of systemic racism.

For readers who are not familiar with the concept of systemic (or system-wide) racism and the ways it impacts individuals and communities, this book is a good introduction.

Starr’s experiences in the aftermath of the killing, including the media portrayal of Khalil as a drug dealer, and the pressure from members of her community to keep quiet, are examples of this.

The author has created realistic characters facing realistic situations and reacting in realistic ways, which is a big part of what makes the story so compelling.

The characters are not idealized versions of teenagers; they get angry, they curse, and they make poor decisions. But they also channel their anger in productive ways and demonstrate resilience and strength.

It is a book that might make you angry. It is a book that might make you sad. It is a book that could open your eyes to the reality faced by many young people across the country.

There are many different ways you could react to it but I don’t think you will walk away feeling nothing.

Readers may also enjoy “Dear Martin” by Nic Stone, “All American Boys” by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely, or “American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures” by America Ferrera.

— Anne Booker is a Public Services Associate at the Burlington Public Library. She can be reached at 360-755-0760 or anneb@burlingtonwa.gov.

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