The Hate U Give: Review

I picked up The Hate U Give, (THUG) because it was mentioned in a TopTenz banned books YouTube video. If you watch the video, you’ll see that many great books and authors have been recently banned. George Orwell, Joseph Heller, Ray Bradbury, J. D. Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut, and James Joyce, for Christ sake, were all featured in the video. Ahh, to be banned in such august company, “I gotta read this book.” So I marched over to the library and checked it out.1

Now I’m a nearly seventy-year-old white guy with a penchant for serious nonfiction, so YA books are not my bag. If THUG hadn’t been banned, I wouldn’t have read it, but it was, and I did, and I am happy to report that I enjoyed The Hate U Give. I think we can all agree this is no 1984 or Catch-22 or Ulysses, and I suspect even the author would agree, but things don’t have to be great to be good, and THUG is a good, but not great, book.

Yes, there is absolutely nothing ban worthy here. In fact, there is nothing we haven’t all seen, over and over again, on the news. If you’re looking for salacious censor-worthy content THUG will be a crushing disappointment. Do the imbeciles that ban books ever read them?

Based on the many long and overwrought five-star reviews young readers have posted on Goodreads, THUG clearly got under people’s skins. The people that love it, love it too much. The people that hate it, hate it too much. Going emotionally overboard is part of being young. Enjoy it! It won’t last. I neither loved nor hated THUG. It was THUG’s voice that I found most appealing. The story is told entirely from the young protagonist’s point of view, and the author never deviates from the first person. The dialogue is clippy, and the hood grammar, or lack thereof, takes a few pages to absorb, but it works! The characters come alive with distinct and memorable voices. You get to know them, and that’s a sign of good writing.

Now it’s true, as others have noted, that the story is predictable and that no great lessons are imparted. We discover that racism is bad, that discrimination is bad, that police brutality is bad, that poverty is bad; who knew? I don’t think reiterating banalities was the author’s intent. She wanted us to get to know some interesting people, and in that she admirably succeeded.

  1. Oddly, THUG has not been banned in redneck Idaho. Did the memory-holers screw up?↩︎

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