Homework. Exams. Midterms. Clubs. I'm sure every student stares at his/her planner and audibly groans.
Why do I have no time?
I am in the same position, yet I somehow managed to read a book in my leisure time (Where did I find it? I don't know.). The book I found with the intent to cuddle up with if the power went out during Tropical Storm Irma is so poignant, I decided to spend some of my already packed schedule to recommend it to everyone else.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas inserts a reader into the sneakers of sixteen year old Starr Carter. She struggles to maintain the dichotomy of her life: WIlliamson Starr, the black girl at a majority white prep school, and Garden Heights Starr, the black girl who doesn't quite fit in because she goes to a white school. Her two worlds collide when her best friend, Khalil, is shot by a white cop. Starr sees his face on the news, the riots in the streets, and how unaffected WIlliamson prep school is by a much deeper issue: racism.
Thomas excellently crafts Starr's personality in her words and manners. Her obsession with sneakers is endearing and her struggles become your own. I found myself crying during Khalil's death despite only being introduced to him two chapters before. Amidst riots and gang violence, Thomas manages to insert usual high school occurrences like school dances and boyfriend issues. There is no pause on action or drama.
Starr is stubborn, but I find myself rooting for her throughout the novel. She's seen two of her friends die in sixteen years. She repeatedly mentions how she hates the word brave, yet she exudes bravery in every action. She goes to court, she goes on the news, she is targeted by gang members, but she always returns from the breaking point.
Starr's innocence leaks out in her tears. The fact that she is so young, but experienced so much heart ache and sorrow reveals the tragedy that is prevalent across America. Khalil Harris is Trayvon Martin. Khalil is Michael Brown. Khalil is Eric Gardner. Khalil is every black life stolen that told the world black lives don't matter. Starr is the embodiment of the Black Lives Matter movement. Her voice is her weapon, protests are her battles, and justice is her goal.
Through Starr, Thomas makes the reality of hundreds of black Americans a reality for hundreds of readers. It is easy to scan another headline. It is simple to stick a Black Lives Matter sticker on your laptop. Through her writing, Thomas gives a story for a reader to live and realize the atrocities happening next door. A story that inspires a person to do more than wear a supportive t-shirt, but to protest, educate, and make change.
We can all find a Starr in ourselves. A light among the darkness we sometimes find ourselves struggling to navigate. The Hate U Give is a start to understanding a reality we are separated from, but can work to change. So read it on your own, read it in your book club, and tell others to read it.