The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give, one of this year’s most acclaimed YA novels, offers a well-rounded, realistic picture of challenges faced by the black community (see cautions). Ages 18-up

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  Blazer & Bray, 2017, 444 pages.

Reading Level: Teen, ages 12-15

Recommended for: ages 18-up

Starr Carter lives between words: though she and her two brothers attend a private school in the ‘burbs, they live in the ‘hood.  Though she has white friends, and even a perfect white boyfriend, her black friends don’t get it.  Though her parents are married, her mom a nurse and her dad a business owner, Daddy is known to the cops as an ex-con.  Also indiscretions in his past resulted in Starr’s older half-brother Seven.  So there’s baggage in Starr’s family, but when a cop pulls over the car she’s riding in with her friend Khalil, the baggage almost crushes her. The situation quickly gets out of hand and Khalil ends up bleeding to death by the side of the road—another unarmed black teen dead for no reason.  That happens on page 23.  Pages 24-444 work out the consequences.

White people can say that the stats need to be sifted carefully, that race relations have come a long way, that the black community has internal problems to work out.  All that is true, but white people don’t have to live it.  The Hate U Give (title taken from a Tupac rap song) acknowledges the internal issues–broken families, absent fathers, crime-ridden neighborhoods– but is also explicit about the difficulties.  You don’t have to accept Starr’s father’s conviction that the system is rigged against them to feel the sense of helplessness. Helplessness sits heavily on Starr, in spite of her advantages, until she finds a voice and raises it in protest.  The system may not be fixable but people are, and THUG clearly shows the value of family and faith.  The author, a professing Christian, gives us memorable characters working out their own salvation with fear and trembling.

That said, some significant cautions: the book could be shorter.  More seriously, language is a big concern: plenty of f-bombs, s-words, and some profanity may override the value for some parents.  More seriously still: though Starr prays, and her family prays together, it’s to someone they call “black Jesus.”  I’d like to say I understand this but I don’t.  Jesus is neither black nor white, but the only way black and white in this country can come together and lay down our tortured history is at the cross of the one Jesus.

Cautions: Language, sensuality (one make-out session with the boyfriend)

Overall rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.5
  • Artistic value: 3.5


FREE Summer Reading Book List

More than 75 books for children and teens, all about islands, oceans, and more. Bonus: get a free hand-drawn reading tracker!

Reading Ahead for You

Reviews and Resources Weekly in Your Inbox
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.


Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.


  1. Becky on February 22, 2018 at 6:53 pm

    I read this one last year, as I’m trying to ease into some more diversity in my reading life. If I recall correctly, Starr calls her family’s faith a mashup of Christianity and Islam early on in the book. That might explain the whole Black Jesus thing, though it certainly doesn’t justify it.

    That being said, I did find the book very thought provoking as a whole, and probably a good conversation starter if I had a teen.

    • Janie on February 24, 2018 at 6:01 am

      Becky–I don’t specifically recall the reference to Islam & Christianity, but can see how that would be the case, especially with Starr’s father who spent some time in jail (a notorious place of Muslim recruitment). I found the references to black Jesus personally offensive (that’s my hot button)–how would Starr feel about references to white Jesus? But I also realize that my problem is with the characters, not necessarily the author. I have no reason to doubt that Angie Thomas is a sincere Christian, and appreciate her foremost acknowledgment to “my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

  2. Katie on February 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Thank you for this review. I have been seeing this book everywhere and wondering what it would be like to read from a Christian perspective.

  3. Marisa Neyenhuis on March 16, 2018 at 8:30 pm

    I really liked this story. The language was definitely a LOT, and I couldn’t listen to an audio recording of it, but I still felt that I got more benefit out of it than not. It sure opened my eyes. I personally really appreciated the conversation between Starr and her father about why things are the way they are in the neighborhood. The references to black Jesus didn’t bother me. There’s some heavy stuff in this book, but I really felt there was a lot of hope. It gives readers an intimate look into a world many of us don’t know at all which I think is so important.

Leave a Comment