The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I 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
I 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.