Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Unabridged audiobook on 10 compact discs; 11.75 hours. Read by Bahni Turpin. Harper Audio, February, 2017. 9781470827137. (Review from audiobook borrowed from public library. Print copy purchased.)

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter lives in Garden Heights but attends a private school about 45 minutes away. Her father is an ex-gangbanger and ex-con but owns a grocery store in the neighborhood. Her mother is a nurse who works in a neighborhood clinic. They are committed to the neighborhood, but after Starr witnesses the murder of her best friend, Natasha in a drive-by shooting at age ten, her parents made the decision to remove their three children from the public school. Their family is not perfect, but is intact and striving. 

Starr talks about straddling two worlds with her two personas; her private school persona and her neighborhood one. She also has a white boyfriend, which her daddy doesn't know about. Her private school friends and boyfriend have never been to Garden Heights. This delicate balance is disrupted when Starr reluctantly attends a neighborhood party. She's catching up with Khalil, a childhood friend and former crush, when gunshots ring out. Khalil grabs her hand and the two flee in his car.  When they are pulled over, Starr recalls the rules her daddy drilled into her. But Khalil questions the officer. Starr focuses on the badge number - 115 and is terrified, especially when Khalil is dragged out of the car by an increasingly agitated 115. When Khalil ducks back into the car to check on Starr, 115 shoots him in the back. Three times. 

This remarkable debut sucked me into Starr's world immediately and I was sorry to leave it. The setting is so vividly evoked and while a specific city was never mentioned, it could be anywhere. All the characters are so memorable! Even minor characters are so fully fleshed out that I feel I could recognize them. While tragedy is never far away, there are hilarious moments that provide respite. I listened to 4/5 (8 of 10 discs) of it and finished the book reading with my eyes. If you have never experienced a performance by Bahni Turpin, this is a great place to start. She has a remarkable range of voices, which added depth to an already deep and important book. 

The Hate U Give has received a remarkable six starred reviews and has spent quite a number of weeks on the NYT best seller list. (Should "best seller list" be capitalized?) The book was on my tbr pile for quite awhile. I would get to it eventually, but what made me move it up on the pile was an eighth grader. One day toward the end of the school year, I got a inter-classroom phone call from the eighth grade science teacher who asked if I was busy/ had a class. I was not, so she told me that she had a student dying to talk to me about a book and could she come up? Absolutely! The library is on the second floor and the science classroom is on the first. She must've run from the classroom because she arrived in seconds, panting and attempting to tell me why I HAD to read this book once she learned that I had not yet read it. I take student recommendations very seriously and intended to crack the book open sooner rather than later, when I heard that Bahni Turpin was the narrator for the audio. I ordered it through Inter-Library Loan (ILL) and waited and waited. The audiobook was worth the wait and while the performance was incredible, I HAD to find out how it ended and couldn't sit through the last two discs to find out. I was so glad I had the book to finish reading it without needing to drive somewhere. 

The Hate U Give lives up to the hype. It is, if not the most, one of the most important books of 2017. It is intense and timely and wholly influential. I expect it will be life-changing to all teen readers who discover it and I expect to do my part to get it into as many hands as possible. 

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