by: Sara Conway ’21 A&E Staff
When Angie Thomas’ debut novel The Hate U Give (THUG) was released on February 28, 2017, the book raced to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, THUG took over the number one spot within its first week out in the public. Since the novel’s original publication date, it has remained on the bestseller list for 86 weeks.
The film adaptation of The Hate U Give follows 16-year-old Starr Carter (Amandla Stenberg) who witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil Harris (Algee Smith), by a white police officer. The story, in both the book and the movie, takes off as Starr struggles between speaking up or continuing on with her somewhat normal life.
THUG was optioned for a film rendition in late 2015 by Fox 2000 with George Tillman, Jr. as the director, Audrey Wells as the screenwriter, and Stenberg set to star. The movie was officially released on October 19, 2018 featuring well-known names, such as Russell Hornsby, Common, Regina Hall, Issa Rae, Sabrina Carpenter, KJ Apa, and Anthony Mackie.
The movie opens with Starr’s father (Hornsby) giving his family “the talk,” only it is about how not to get shot by a police officer. Nine-year-old Starr mimics her father by putting her palms flat on the dining room table, her fingers stretched out. This scene foreshadows the traumatic events to come later.
THUG shows the different sides of the police brutality issue in America. The movie highlights Starr’s perspective as the sole eyewitness to her friend being shot and killed—although he was not armed; he was holding a hairbrush. It also includes a glimpse into the cop’s panicked reaction to killing Khalil. Angie Thomas adds another layer of complexity to the story by intentionally making Starr’s uncle, Carlos (Common), a police officer. In fact, he is in the same force as the cop who shot Khalil.
On top of everything else, Starr faces casual racism from a friend in addition to struggling to fit in at her school. Starr and her two brothers attend a private school in a predominantly white and wealthy suburb, a stark contrast to her home, Garden Heights, a low-income, black neighborhood. At school, Starr becomes another version of herself, beginning with code switching; she mentions that slang makes her classmates look cool while it makes her “hood.”
The various exchanges between Starr and her friend demonstrate the power of the news and how its influence dictates the way a story is represented to those distant from an event. The Hate U Give makes readers and moviegoers see from a different perspective. The book and the movie force the audiences to feel even if it is just a sliver of what is actually experienced in reality.
Heavily influenced by famous rapper Tupac and the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give presents to readers and moviegoers a profoundly human story. The title was inspired by Tupac’s T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E tattoo: “The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everybody.”
Thomas weighs in on its meaning through an interview with Cosmopolitan as she says, “When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they’ve been given screws us all. We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots.” The Hate U Give tells a story of race, a story of loss and trauma, and a story of finding one’s voice; however, it is ultimately a story of hope.