Tournament of Books, Round Three: The Hate U Give vs. Long Way Down

When I read my email with my assigned titles for Tournament of the Books and saw that I had both The Hate U Give AND Long Way Down, I was ecstatic. These were two books that I was incredibly excited about and I felt complemented each other well. Then it hit me how hard it was going to be to pick just one of these to win. I had to forget everything I had heard about them and any preconceived notions I might have, and went to work.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fThe Hate U Give is such an important novel and made such an impact on the world of YA literature. This tells the story of Starr, who lives in Garden Heights A.K.A. the ghetto, but goes to a private school in wealthy, white neighborhood. This separates her from the kids that she has grown up with. At her private school she transforms herself into what she dubs “Williamson Starr”, where nothing she says or does could be construed as ghetto. In Garden Heights, she feels she can be herself, but doesn’t quite fit in since everyone from her neighborhood says she acts white because of where she goes to school. This brings her to a party where she tries to prove she fits in in Garden Heights, and the events of that night leave one of her childhood friends dead and Starr’s two worlds come crashing together.

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

22552026Long Way Down is another hugely important novel that has taken the YA world by storm. This is the story of Will, who is looking to avenge the death of his brother, Shawn. Shawn was murdered in their neighborhood and Will feels he must follow The Rules that have been set down by generations before him. When he gets into the elevator that morning with his gun, ready to complete rule number three, some very unexpected guests get into the elevator with him. This story is told in verse and takes place over the course of a little over a minute, but is jam packed with stories that make Will think. During his ride down, Will must listen to these stories that are all connected to him and Shawn, and decide what is the right thing for him to do.

And the winner is…


Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

This book was all over stunning. The story had me thinking about it, and the ending, long after I finished. I was moved to tears. Telling the story in verse truly brings the story to life. The way the words were positioned on the page had you feeling much like Will felt. Sometimes it was jarring, sometimes it was scattered, sometimes it was quiet, but powerful. This is also a fantastic read for a reluctant reader. It has a high page count, but when they open it, it isn’t daunting. They are able to read such a powerful story and stay engaged, without being intimidated by its length. Jason Reynolds tells a story that needs to be heard and reaches out to those that aren’t seen. Please share this book!

Tegan Beese is the Young Adult Associate at Lake Villa District Library. She is currently finishing her MSLIS at University of Illinois and can’t wait to dive back into her giant to be read pile. You can find her on Instagram @therowdylibrarian or Twitter @teegsmae


Back to Round Three, Bracket Two

Onto Round Three, Bracket Four


Tournament of Books, Round Two: The Hate U Give vs Warcross


When I found out my first assigned book was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I squealed because that was one of the best books I read in 2017, and I knew there were very few books it could be paired with that would prevent me from moving it on. Then I was assigned Warcross by Marie Lu. I’ve never been a huge fan of science fiction, especially gaming sci-fi, so I admittedly went into this competition knowing I would pick T.H.U.G. to win.

This is probably a librarian sin, but Warcross is the kind of book I’d rather see played out in a movie both because of the visual potential–Emika’s hair is rainbow-colored, and it’s not every day a book takes place in Tokyo–and also because it took at least half the book for any action to take place. I found myself wishing I was reading any of the books in my “to-read-right-now” stack instead of this one that took 150+ pages for me to get invested. Underwhelming, if you will.

With that said, one of the characters says, “Everything is science fiction before it’s science fact,” which was a satisfying reminder about why sci-fi can be such a worthwhile, imaginative genre. And I’m happy to have another book to recommend to students who are fans of Ready Player One and Ender’s Game. Ultimately, though, it was a choice between moving forward something relevant and poignant and something for the escapist.

I went with relevant and necessary. Because while reading to better understand the current state of the world and reading to escape it are both important and valid, T.H.UG. carries an immediacy. I want to get it into the hands of everyone, especially people who do not understand or choose to disparage the Black Lives Matter movement.

Due to a lengthy commute, I get most of “reading” in via audiobooks during the school year. While listening to The Hate U Give, I arrived at work in tears. Every. Day. For as many feelings I’ve had while reading over the years, I don’t think I’ve ever been moved to tears like this.

I’ll let Starr speak for herself:

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff. And they say it so much that it becomes okay to them. And normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

And the winner is…


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Ayse Liebovich is the librarian at Bartlett High School and also on the Steering Committee of the Lincoln Book Award. She continues to be overwhelmed by her neverending to-read list.



Back to Round Two, Bracket Five

Onto Round Two, Bracket Seven

Tournament of Books, Round One: The Hate U Give vs Loving vs Virginia

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

f043712f-4655-4c8a-b60f-fca1e4c6ca9fI read The Hate U Give a few months after it published, a story of black teen Starr Carter who sees her friend shot by a police officer for checking on her during a traffic stop. Starr reconnected with Khalil at a party and the pair were escaping the party after they hear gun shots. When pulled over by a white officer, Khalil wants to be told why he was pulled over, but the office doesn’t respond, only asking for documents, eventually pulling Khalil out of the car. While the officer goes back to his patrol car, Khalil opens the car door to check on Starr, which is when he’s shot. Starr’s already complicated world becomes more so.

Starr attends a fancy private school 45 minutes away from her home and she discusses Garden Heights Starr and Williamson Starr, how she feels she needs to present two selves in the entirely disparate worlds she lives in. Reading how Starr continually thinks about how she presents herself in her school environment is exhausting, and like most teens, she struggles with her own sense of self. She even denies knowing Khalil to her prep school friends.

Packed with a boatload of issues, The Hate U Give is emotionally engaging and speaks to current events. It’s an important discussion to have, to see teens struggle with, especially in the society we live in today. The supportive and involved family present in the novel is refreshing to see; the changing relationship between old friends is also important to acknowledge, how people some people evolve and grow and others don’t. The largest struggle for Starr is deciding whether or not to speak out whether or not to act, how to fight for justice when you’re scared.

Loving vs Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

LovingVsVirginacoverI listened to the audiobook of Loving vs Virginia as I waited for the print copy to be returned to my library. Told in verse, it follows the story of a couple in 1950s Virginia as they fall in love, get married, have children, and want to live their lives near their families. Richard is white, Mildred is black, and for the pair to be married in Virginia is illegal. They marry in Washington, DC (where it is legal) but as they begin their lives as a married couple in Virginia, the sheriff enters Mildred’s family’s home and takes the pair to jail. They move to Washington, DC after the court banishes them from going to Virginia together for 25 years. Mildred’s frustration with being unable to spend time with her family, for her children to grow up near their cousins, to be a within her family’s close circle leads her to contact the American Civil Liberties Union and so their court battles begin.

The story is rooted in interviews with family and friends of the Lovings, and relevant quotes from documents are included in the narrative, such as the extremely racist declaration of the judge who originally banished the Lovings from Virginia by saying “God put the races on separate continents and didn’t intend them to mix.” The simplicity of the verse left emotions bare and you could feel the frustration and sadness and also the joy of the pair. As the novel is based on true events, the author included notes on the couple’s lives which was appreciated, as well as the mind blowing fact that it was the year 2000 in which the last state repealed anti-interracial marriage laws.

After I listened to Loving vs Virginia, I then read the book, and then listened to The Hate U Give on audiobook to refresh me on the story. Writing from a privileged perspective (I’m white and straight), both of these books made me angry—angry that we live in a world where the government thinks it can restrict us to who we marry, angry that we live in a world where people are shot without warning, angry that we live in a world where so many people struggle, where so many people are denied opportunities because of who they are, who they love, where they live. I am an emotional reader, and I cried while listening to both of these books. Beyond the anger, there is hope—Starr learns to speak out, to disguise herself less, and the Lovings get to return to Virginia as husband and wife, living near the family and community they both cherish.

And the winner is…


The winner is The Hate U Give.

I enjoyed Loving vs Virginia because it’s a story that needs to be told, a story I had no idea existed, but the verse format of the story left me feeling a little distant from the story and the people in it. The Hate U Give exposes Starr’s emotions as she experiences them, bringing an immediacy to the story that draws in the reader, ugly and beautiful emotions alike. More important is the currency of the story and the deeper connection teens can make with Starr and her struggles.

Steph Nielsen is the Youth Collection Librarian at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL; most of her career she’s worked with teen or youth materials, because reading grown-up books just doesn’t suit her. She met her husband in the library they once worked at together. She enjoys reading YA fiction to herself, and picture books and chapter books to her two sons.

Back to Round One, Bracket Eleven

Onto Round One, Bracket Thirteen