The Hurt U Give (THUG) An important read for younger readers, especially those who have little in common with the characters in this story. It's vital that more people understand the issue of police brutality from the standpoint of those most often in its crosshairs. This book could go a very long way toward achieving that. Woven smartly through the overall theme were issues of family, poverty, community, education, parenting, innocence, and best of all: the worth of those who have been imprisoned portrayed magically through Big Mav.
All of those things are great. I'm thrilled to know people in rural areas are reading it, people all over the world are reading it, that it will be a movie and I will certainly be buying copies for young people in the future, because it's a book that teaches many lessons.
Nonetheless, at times it felt pedantic and laugh-aloud funny with definitions written into the prose for common terms and actions. Because this book is meant to be read widely, hopefully by those who have the least in common with Starr, her awesome family and her community, these moments that pulled me sharply away from the story might be unobtrusive and reassuring to another reader. The problems with these explanations for me was 1) there are too many of them and 2) they are borderline pedantic, and 3) they felt clunky and slowed the pace considerably from an important story.
Here's an example (hang on while I find one...OK back) This is from the part where Chris and Starr are in Seven's car and she sees her neighborhood through what she imagines Chris' eyes to be, "There's lots of hoopties, cars that should've been in the junk-yard a long time ago." (Kindle Edition, Chapter 22, p. 379.) Why not simply, "There's lots of hoopties." Until just now I didn't realize that wasn't a word everyone would know. I'm 50 and it's been around as long as I can remember. I'm on the opposite coast from this book's setting, so at least in the US, it's not regionally specific.
At those times THUG felt to me like a teaching aid for white people, which it certainly could and should be. Distracting or not, these "explainers" mean many more people can enjoy the book (though dictionaries and internet searches never killed anyone.) I thought, frequently, while reading this book that between the strong family setting, the clear love for everyone involved, the excellent manners and picture-perfect characters this would be another great book for white readers to break into the lived black experience. Angie Thomas makes Starr the perfect vehicle for innocent children made into monsters by virtue of skin color and environment.
Along those lines, it seemed a bit too happily ever after too, but once again, I'm reading a book I'm way too old for, and the style is very clearly for young readers. That's not me. It's hard to fault a book for being what it is when I am clearly not the intended reader.
I could quibble more but I won't. I will give this book to the lovers and the marchers and the peacemakers and the many I hope will learn from it. (I'm praying the banning of this book in some areas means lots of kids are smuggling copies into their houses and reading it late at night.)
Because if nothing else, this one point about children being made into monsters by media and increasingly terrified police officers, victims tried in the court of public opinion is a strong and vital message. Any way we can get more people to understand it is fine by me. It's vital -- quite literally a life and death issue. The more we can show the humanity in all to those for whom city-dwelling brown people are foreign, the more we will hopefully - with work - change this issue. This is a welcoming story with likeable, sympathetic characters with whom people will easily empathize.
Go out, buy physical copies, give them to everyone you think might need it. Leave them in public places. Disperse this book widely, please.