The books is always better than the movie. It’s a well known fact. So, I’m excited to present this one.
Customary warning: This is a reminder that these are my personal opinions. My thoughts and feelings are not your thoughts and feelings. I may not always be the target audience for a book; sometimes I am. If I do not like a book, that doesn’t mean you’ll dislike it. If I love a book or simply like a book, you may hate it. Take everything I say with this knowledge. If it sounds interesting to you despite what I’ve said, then go ahead and read it. You’ll only know you like something if you read it yourself.
That being said… Spoilers ahead.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Synopsis From The Book
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.S
Initial Thoughts Before Reading:
I originally saw this in theaters, for the movie release. My friend had been reading the novel, and had told me about her experience with it. Most of the time, I’d go out and get the book to read it before seeing the movie… this time my father told me we had to see it. He was the one who pushed me to see it with him, and after crying in the movie (with him) while watching this film…? I knew I had to read the book. Another one of my friends told me that the book holds back no punches, which makes even more excited. I want this book to make me feel things just like the movie did.
I want to cry. My tissue box is ready.
Initial Thoughts After Reading:
I did not cry, but that is not to say I did not feel. There are so many things that are important to me about this story, and in truth IDK if I’m going to be able to get them out.
Starr Carter is at a party for spring break. When a fight breaks out at the party (resulting in a boy’s death) she is taken away by her long time best friend Khalil to go home. On the way home, Khalil is pulled over by the cops, asked (and forced) out of the vehicle, and then shot after he moves to ask Starr if she is okay.
Starr then goes through life with this after sentiment, after his death. She must pick herself up and goes to her school in a more affluent neighborhood, trying to act like nothing happens. As she does this, she realizes all the things she put off before.
Starr discovers who her true friends are, and makes new ones. Throughout all of this she learns her new place in the war-zone that is her neighborhood. Drug-lords fight and threaten her. She feels like she is at war with the cops. She learns what her voice means and how she wants to use it to tell Khalil’s story.
The intersections between identities and races are crossed and examined in her relationships with her boyfriend (white), friends (white and asian), and family (both related and not). Starr faces school protests, fights, a grand jury (and ultimate failed indictment), and her family’s expectations, as well as her own.
In the end nothing gets “better”, but Starr learns that change is possible and that rebuilding is necessary.
Often times I go into a pretty thorough look of what happens in the book, but because I want you (my readers) to read it, I’m not doing that. Not this time.
What I Liked:
Starr; Her introspection and character development are top notch. Seeing her navigate between the two worlds was brilliant to watch and witness unfold.
Supporting cast; Each had their own charms. Most importantly, they were people. They were people living lives that aren’t too dissimilar to my friends and family. These people had stories, meaning, dreams, goals, and lives that I can not further emphasize. For Starr’s journey they were a great cast, real and true.
The story and ending; Ultimately what hurts the most is the cold hard truth that no matter what was said or done, we all knew the officer would not be indicted. We knew that he was going to get off, but reading it hurt just as bad as watching it on screen. This story is one of hundreds, from the crimes on the streets and the black boys that shot each other at the party, to the boy who got killed by a cop. I feel that this story knows what its doing. It is not a fantasy. It is the cold hard truth that this story is the same and that won’t change. What’s important is that this story tells us we can get better, there is a way to do it, we must rebuild, and use the voices that can not be taken from us.
Themes; This book was not jammed with them. In fact I think the ones that it highlights the most are the ones we already know and that’s what it does well. It does not need to tell us, this is the theme, it gives us a critical examination of those themes through the perspective of a survivor and asks us when is enough enough? It shows us what it’s like to live within the boundary of one space versus another. What it means to be too black. What it means to be acting white. It shows us that the systematic racism and pressures of our society only perpetuate this system of hurt within the community and outside of it. For me, who grew up knowing these things, seeing these things, hearing these things it offered me a solace of “it is okay to feel this way.” I may have never seen a friend die like Starr did, but you can sure as hell know that I know what it’s like to be a minority in a white space. I also know what it’s like to be a minority in a black space as well. I’m half black, never going to be all white or all black and with that I was able to empathize with Starr and know exactly what she meant with the separation of her friends, lives, communities, and identity. When watching the movie these themes hit me hard, and I think that might be why I was numb to the tears while reading. I know the tears were there, but they’ve already been cried and were determined to say: it’s time to make the change I want, not cry. Reading this made me more angry than watching the movie did. It made me angry, burning with rage for justice. The way the book presents the themes, does that. It makes you cry. It makes you livid. It makes you smile. It makes you human and tells you, you are living.
Often times I’d have what I’d like to have changed here, but I don’t have any so instead I will go with comparisons.
Khalil; I felt that the movie did him justice just ever so slightly better. It wasn’t like we got him with more screen time, but there was something about seeing this bubbly, charming, attractive, beautiful human being on screen that just made the book version pale in comparison. It wasn’t like the book did not craft him beautifully (which is why I feel that the movie did such a good job in his depiction), I just feel that the way that we got just a few more seconds with him in the car and got to see him made me love him more. I loved both book Khalil and Movie Khalil, but book Khalil was more a memory to me. Movie Khalil was my friend, and he died right there in front of me.
Irony; This has two big places in the movie that the book does not have. The first is the Natasha reveal. In the movie Natasha’s death in front of Starr is not until a good way through the film, and thus it has a bit more irony in the way its presented. She lost two friends, not just one. She lost them both in front of her, by gun violence and she could not save them. This dramatic irony is all too real because Starr is living with it but we as the audience do not know. In the book we do know, and thus it eats at the soul and destroys the reader knowing it, but in the movie it is used as a bit more of a shock and it destroys you. In the book we are Starr so we are destroyed but the movie we are her friend and an observer and to see that this child has been destroyed in more ways than one, kills. The second time is with Sekani at the end of the movie. In the book, after the protests (because of the failed indictment) Starr and the others go to her dad’s store to get milk for the tear gas that got in their eyes. The store is set on fire by King and they make it outside, after her father breaks the back door down to help them out. From there, all the kids are safe guarded from King (head drug lord) and the cops + firemen show up to stop the fires in the area. King is arrested for arson (after everyone says he did it), and later for his massive drug ring. There are only harsh words said. In the movie it plays out a bit different. When Starr’s dad breaks them out of the fire, he turns on King and threatens him. A gun fight is sure to break out when Mav (Starr’s dad) realizes he doesn’t have his gun. He thought he did, but really it’s in the hands of Sekani, Starr’s baby brother (nine). Sekani is a child in elementary school and he’s holding a gun at the drug lord of their community right as the cops pull up. The cops point their guns at Sekani. Starr intervenes and stops the gun fight and her brother from being killed. This works as a different type of irony. In this it places an emphasis on the cycle of hate in THUG LIFE (see below). This is the crux of Starr’s journey where she decides enough is enough. In the book, she decides this in retrospection and the way that everyone stands up against King, but in this it is her brother and the cycle about to replay that sets it up for her. In both cases, I can not tell you which one I like better because I feel that both have their dramatic purpose. They were simply different.
DeVante; In the movie he doesn’t exist. Instead all his troubles get erased or pushed onto Seven. This streamlines the plot for the movie, but I felt that his story and Seven’s being separated was important. In the movie it doesn’t matter but in the books the fight at the party is explained. In the books, more of the gang culture is explained and details come full circle. Books always do this better. Movie lost out on a great character, even if i understand why they had to cut him.
Starr’s friends; in the book more time is given to them, granted this is because there is more time to do so. Maya’s relationship with Starr is top notch, as is Starr plus Kenya. In the movie they are real people, which is clear, but a bit more like accessories. I loved their tangibility in the books. After the movie I couldn’t even tell you their names (which now looking back really pisses me off). Hailey on the other hand got more time in movie than book, and I hate her. The book Hailey was irredeemable but the movie Hailey didn’t do nearly as much and I hated her more. This is partially due to brilliant acting, and partially because Hailey starts her tirade after Khalil’s murder. We got more screen time for her against Maya, and in some ways I’m okay with that. As my friend said: “Book Hailey is problematic but it’s very obvious in the way that she’s written that it’s a product of so many other things and she doesn’t necessarily understand that she even has bias.” Movie Hailey is the same but her problematic nature start while we are there with Starr. We get to see this bias show itself as I have witnessed in my own friends when situations got bad. Seeing this flip, from friend to enemy rather than crumbling friends at the beginning, made her more irredeemable. This is a show, don’t tell sort of thing and it does better.
Sequencing of events: Beginning; The only thing that I will say the movie does better than the book is the opening. We see Starr as a “normal” girl first. We see her in school before Khalil is killed — it’s called “the incident” so often in the books that I reject that as Starr did. It was not an incident. Khalil was murdered. — this normality helps the viewer come into Starr’s dual worlds a bit easier than the book does it. The book shows this duality after the murder, and granted starting with the inciting incident is good but I felt that there was a certain charm to this sort of beginning that really had me. We get to see Starr as she sees herself and we get to see her grow. I felt that showing this before Khalil was murdered, helped establish her, her world, and everything in it before it came crumbling down. Additionally we get the scene of Starr, Seven, and Sekani learning how to interact with cops that plays at the very beginning of the movie that had me heavy. In the books its mentioned but showing, not telling, is always more powerful.
Sequencing of events: Everything else; The plot of the movie goes in the same order as the books, for the most part. Some great scenes are lost, and characters are cut to stream line. Everyone at Starr’s school knows she was the witness after her interview in the movie. In the book it’s after she clocks Hailey (her ex best friend who says some really racist shit) when Hailey was calling Starr out for lying about knowing Khalil. In the movie this reveal is at prom, in the book its after prom and prom was the best night of Starr’s life. The movie takes the events and jams them together, which works for the movie but the books’ spacing and pacing works just better. Maybe I’m just book biased, but I liked the separation of the events. I loved seeing Hailey getting her ass handed to her. We get the graduation and arrest as after thoughts in the movie, as a “and then” which works but I liked their place in the book.
Uncle Carlos; In the book, Carlos has a large character arc and gives a perspective over the police that the movie just doesn’t have. It’s implied but its nowhere near as prominent as it is in the book, and I feel that a lot of this comes from DeVante. DeVante and Uncle Carlos move hand in hand, and so without one, the other’s arc is lost.
Names and Black Panther mantra; In the movies this is an emotional climax. In the books it did not hit be as hard and I think that’s because of the way its presented. In the movie its pretty much the lead up for the big end, and when it is done. This reveal is powerful, emotional, and a highlight that I remember taking away from the movie. Names have so much weight, words do too, and this moment was great in the books but seeing it on the screen had more of an impact.
Ultimately, the book was better (pacing, characters, writing) but the movie was not a shame. The movie took the story and told it the way a movie must, without losing the soul, essence, or meaning of the novel. The movie was well filmed, directed, and acted which gave justice to the source material. For everything that the movie does differently, I have not been this proud of a book-to-movie adaptation in forever. Always swear by the book, tho. Always.
Time Taken To Read
” “‘Pac said Thug Life stood for ‘The Hate You Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.”
” I raise my eyebrows. “What?”
” “Listen! The Hate U – the letter U – Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody. T-H-U-G-L-I-F-E. Meaning what society give us as youth, it bites them in the ass when we wild out. Get it?” ” – Khalil to Starr
“…and that’s why a name is important. It defines you.” – Starr about King.
“That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug Life.” – Mav (Starr’s dad) to Starr
“I didn’t know a dead person could be charged in his own murder, you know.” — Starr on an interview
“I’d ask him if he wished he shot me too.” — Starr when asked if the cop that shot Khalil was there what she would say.