There is a whole lot to love about The Hate U Give.
In case you somehow have not yet read this YA bestseller (seriously, go get it!), here’s the deal: Angie Thomas’s debut novel follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old girl who lives in a low-income, mostly Black neighbourhood and attends a rich, predominantly white school. After witnessing the death of her childhood friend at the hands of a police officer, Thomas details Starr’s journey from carefree teen to impassioned activist—a story that clearly reflects real-life headlines.
The response to the novel, published in 2017, was praised by critics and has sold more than 850,000 copies, earning it the number-one spot on the New York Times bestseller list for 70 weeks (and counting!). Less than two years after its initial release, the novel is now getting adapted into a film, set to hit theatres October 19. Based on the trailer alone, which has more than 4 million views on YouTube, the big-screen version of The Hate U Give is going to be as popular as the book.
Still need more convincing as to why it’s *the* must-see film of 2018? Here are eight reasons we already have The Hate U Give‘s release date saved in our calendars.
It gets real about race
The Hate U Give tells the story of 16-year-old Black student Starr Carter as she navigates issues of identity, race and class. When Starr witnesses police shoot and kill her childhood friend, Khalil, she becomes an activist, fighting police brutality against people of colour.
Throughout the novel, Starr is seen struggling to keep her home and school life separate as she tries to figure out which version of herself to be in each world. We get a taste of this in the trailer, when she refers to herself as ‘Starr 2.0’ at her mostly white prep school, and says she tries to avoid giving her classmates a reason to call her ‘ghetto’—a struggle Thomas has dealt with IRL. “There are so many adults who identify with that,” Thomas told The Cut. “I went through it myself when I was in college.”
The Hate U Give goes on to explore how these personal experiences are situated within a larger context. The title of the book and film is coined from Tupac’s concept of THUG LIFE, which stands for “the hate u give little infants f-cks everybody.” As Starr begins to unpack this phrase, she more clearly sees the systemic racism that affects individuals in her community. “When these unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they’ve been given screws us all,” explains Thomas in an interview with Cosmopolitan. “We see it in the form of anger and we see it in the form of riots.”
It brings the #BlackLivesMatter movement to the mainstream big screen
The Hate U Give was born when Thomas broached the topic of bringing Black Lives Matter to YA during a Twitter Q&A with literary agent Brooks Sherman. “I took a chance and asked if the Black Lives Matter movement was an appropriate topic for a YA novel,” Thomas says. “Brooks Sherman, who is now my agent, responded that he didn’t think any topics were inappropriate for YA.”
Starr’s story brings attention to the real-life fight against police brutality. Though Thomas does not directly reference activist group Black Lives Matter in the novel, she says that The Hate U Give is inspired by the movement. Further, the story tackles the issue of police brutality when Starr refers to “The Talk” she has with her father about what to do if you’re confronted by police—the dangers of which are shown when Starr and her friend Khalil are pulled over and it ends in tragedy.
In a panel discussion at BookExpo on book-to-film adaptations, The Hate U Give director George Tillman Jr. shared how having “The Talk” in his own life inspired this scene in the film. “As an African American, I always had that conversation,” he says. “But it came from many different places. It came from my uncles; it came from my father. How do you act around a police officer? What if you’re approached? What if you did something wrong, or what if you get pulled over.”
This isn’t just a story, it’s real life for the author
Thomas was inspired to write The Hate U Give, her debut novel, after hearing about Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22-year-old black male fatally shot by a white police officer in 2009. After releasing the movie trailer at the 2018 BET Awards, Thomas revealed on Twitter that she has *a lot* in common with the main character of her novel.
I’m a black girl from Mississippi who sometimes didn’t have lights. Sometimes my family was on welfare. I’m straight from the hood, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
The trailer just dropped for a movie based on a book I wrote.
Nothing is impossible.
With that, bye Twitter
— T’ChAngie Thomas (@angiecthomas) June 25, 2018
She channelled much of her own anger and grief into Starr, viewing her writing as a form of activism itself for bringing these issues to light.
The book is a step forward for better representation in literature
Thomas has become a symbol of change in publishing, using her voice as a Black woman to speak about the experiences many women of colour experience. The author has been vocal about her desire to give a voice to traditionally underrepresented groups. “[Mississippi] has a great literary history, but the other authors are dead or white,” she told her hometown newspaper. “As a kid, I would wonder, ‘Is this something that can happen to me, the little black girl from the hood?’” By sharing her experience, she’s fighting for better representation in the publishing industry and paving the way for *more* underrepresented voices. (In 2017, around one quarter of children’s books featured characters of colour. That is a massive improvement from 2013, when these characters were represented in only 10% of books.)
In an interview with The Cut, Thomas says that the publishing company went “all-in” on the book because they acknowledged the need for diverse voices in book publishing. “They recognized that there is a problem,” she explains.
The film will maintain the spirit and voice of the book
While books are regularly turned into films, it sounds like the makers of The Hate U Give were careful to make sure that the big-screen adaptation maintains the same spirit and power as the book. Thomas notes that she was very involved with the film adaptation and spoke with the director throughout the filming process. “I was consulted a lot,” said Thomas during a panel at BookExpo. “I have to say that the director, especially, he consulted me a lot. He still consults me a lot during post-production.” She continues, “For me, that’s an honour because it shows that he respects the source material and the source that it came from.”
The lead actor, Amandla Stenberg, is an activist IRL
In an interview with Indie magazine that Stenberg reveals that she often weaves the political and personal into her film roles—and it looks like The Hate U Give will be no exception.
Like Thomas, the film’s cast members are *also* making waves in activism. The film’s star(r) Amandla Stenberg is an activist for gender equality and intersectionality. At only 16 years old, Stenberg made a video called “Don’t Cash Crop On My Cornrows” that called out white celebs for appropriating Black culture but failing to use their position of power to help address issues impacting the Black community, such as police brutality.
Stenberg put her words into action when she was 19 and walked away from a role in Black Panther because she didn’t want to take the space from a dark-skinned actor, recognizing her privilege as a biracial person. (While some social media users pointed out that Starr is also meant to be darker-skinned and others argued that that Stenberg isn’t “Black enough” to play this character, Bustle points out that “both debates, though valid, are overshadowed by the amount of love displayed” by the cast on set and Thomas’s confidence in Stenberg as her Starr.)
— T'ChAngie Thomas (@angiecthomas) September 12, 2017
The producers have a zero-tolerance policy
When the The Hate U Give cast was announced last year, people were excited to see it included some of our favourite stars—including Stenberg, Sabrina Carpenter and Issa Rae. However, one of the lead actors set to play Starr’s prep school boyfriend, Kian Lawley, sparked controversy after a video resurfaced of the actor using racial slurs.
In response to the video, Twentieth Century Fox recast the role of Starr’s BF and reshot Lawley’s footage with Riverdale‘s KJ Apa. Lawley later apologized for his actions in a statement to Variety. “Words have power and can do damage,” Lawley said. “I own mine and I am sorry. I respect Fox’s decision to recast this role for The Hate U Give as it is an important story.”
The film is already resonating with fans, and it’s not even out yet
Following the release of the trailer, numerous social media users tweeted thank you notes to Thomas and the producers for sharing a story that hits so close to home.
as a 17 year old black girl, I would like to thank you for the millionth time for using your voice to further educate those who don’t understand the problems that are known all too well in our community
— sheri (@lovinimIivin) June 25, 2018
— hopevictoria (@hopevictoria) June 25, 2018
Yaaaasss go you! I am a girl from the South Bronx. The 1st in my family to: attend college, become an exec in music, rise to VP status, own my own co., write a book & so on. Dreams come true! Congrats!
— Michelle J. (@TheDigitalChick) June 25, 2018
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