From Page to Screen: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
There's a reason The Hate U Give has been on the NY Times Bestseller list since it debuted in 2017. Not only is the novel incredibly well written, but it's a poignant story about something that we see happening all of the time. This novel honestly changed my entire perspective.
I first read this novel not long after it came out. Honestly, I was afraid to read it because it was such a popular book and I didn't understand the subject matter. How could I? I am a middle class white woman. I have certain privileges. But, I have also seen how police brutality affects entire communities.
In 2016, Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge, not far from where I live and worked at the time. I witnessed how people rose up against policy brutality. I saw how racism gripped an entire community as people made every excuse for the officer killing Alton. I even believed them. I'm ashamed to admit that, because I didn't understand it then.
While I will never understand what it's like to be Black in America, reading this novel completely changed my views. Black Lives Matter isn't a political movement, it's a people movement.
Starr lives in Garden Heights, and it isn't exactly a safe place. She witnessed one of her best friends being gunned down when she was ten. That's when her parents pulled her out of the public school and put she and her brothers into private school which is majority white. The novel begins at a party during Spring Break in Garden Heights. Thomas did a fantastic job introducing us to several key players in the very beginning.
While at the party, Starr runs into her other childhood best friend, Khalil. Recently, their lives have gone in different directions, but seeing him again, there's a spark of something between them. There always has been.
The party is broken up by gunfire, and everyone scatters.
Khalil offers to give Starr a ride home, and the two of them take off, away from the party. But shortly after, a police officer pulls them over. Khalil is gunned down when he reached into the car for a hair brush. Starr witnesses her other best friend's death at the hands of an officer.
THUG doesn't just expose police brutality, but also gives insight into what it's like in Black communities and how gangs thrive and die. Starr goes on to pursue justice for her friend, but, like many killings we see today, justice is not served.
What I really loved about this novel was seeing Starr's struggle between Starr at Home and Starr at School. She couldn't be too Black in one place, and she couldn't be too White at home.
There's a reason this novel has been on the bestseller list as long as it has: it tells a brutally honest story about things that are going on today.
I couldn't understand the Black Lives Matter movement because of my privilege. I'm so thankful that Angie Thomas wrote this novel, because I may have never even tried had I not read it.
Overall, the plot of the movie stuck pretty close to the novel. They eliminated a few side plotlines and simplified the overall story.
I really loved the casting. Amandla Steinberg was absolutely perfect as Starr. The entire Carter family, in fact, was well cast. I was surprised to see Anthony Mackie play King, one of the main villains in the novel. I'm used to seeing him play a superhero. It's always great to see actors exploring their range.
There were two key changes made from the novel to the movie that I want to discuss:
Starr is dating a white guy from her private school. When all hell breaks loose and there's a riot in Garden Heights toward the climax of the novel, Starr decides she wants to join in, because she did the right thing and it meant nothing. In the novel, Chris joins Starr. In the movie, they eliminated him from this part of the plot. I was really disappointed, because I feel like it was incredibly important for Chris to see the riots first hand. How can he understand Starr if he doesn't go with her?
When Starr's family store burns down in the novel, the breaking point of the tension happens when everyone in Garden Heights snitches on King for setting the building on fire. In the movie, King approaches as though he's going to hurt Starr, and Starr's younger brother Sekani pulls his dad's gun from the back of his pants and points it at King. I literally gasped and burst into tears because, my god, I'd forgotten that happened in the movie and how impactful that moment is. This was a good change from the novel, one that I think really drills the point home.
THUG is an incredibly poignant story that I think everyone should read. Will it change everyone's thoughts like it changed mine? Unlikely, but if there's a chance that it could, I think we should try. We are all human, we are all people, and we all matter. But we can't all matter until Black Lives Matter.