Angie Thomas’s young adult novel The Hate U Give follows the experiences of Starr Carter, a sixteen-year-old African-American girl who witnesses her best friend Khalil get shot by a white police officer. Over the course of the book, we see how Starr manages to find her voice and fight for justice. 

In terms of structure, the events of the novel develop chronologically across five parts. Khalil’s death is the defining event of the story, and all of the other sections of the story are organized by how they relate chronologically to this dramatic event. 

The main character is the narrator, Starr Carter. The other main character is her friend Khalil Harris. Even though we only see Khalil directly in the first two chapters, Starr is determined to offer a sense of Khalil as a person both to readers and to the public. Other key characters include Starr’s parents Maverick and Lisa, as well as Starr’s boyfriend Chris and her friend Hailey, who represent different ways in which white people sometimes respond to issues of race. 

The story is set in the present day and the events take place in an unnamed American city across a number of different settings, which represent the different parts of Starr’s life. These include Garden Heights, the poor and mainly African-American neighborhood where Starr grew up. This is contrasted with Starr’s school, which is in a wealthy white neighborhood and where she is one of the only black students.

Starr Carter is the first person narrator of the novel. Her narrative voice uses teenage slang, and she often shares personal comments about the events that unfold with the readers, giving the story a more intimate feeling. 

The language also includes phrases and non-standard grammar pointing to Starr’s black identity and her immersion in black culture. The story also contains many pop cultural references, and some elements of the plot have symbolic significance.

Excerpt from the study guide:

The area is also different from Garden Heights because many of the students at Williamson have led sheltered lives, which means that they do not fully understand Starr’s experience as an African American who has grown up in a poor neighborhood. We see a collective example of this lack of understanding in the protests that the students organize in response to Khalil’s death (Chapter 11, 14%), which they clearly just see as an excuse to skip class. The character of Hailey also comes to represent the prejudice that exists at Williamson, as her comments and actions reveal a general ignorance about the realities of discrimination in the US.

Starr’s new neighborhood is a happy compromise between the two areas

When the threats towards Starr grow more intense, Lisa finally convinces Maverick to move the family to a house in a different neighborhood. In many ways, this neighborhood is described as a happy compromise between Garden Heights and Williamson. 

Single-story brick houses line freshly paved streets. Black kids, white kids, and everything in between play on the sidewalks and in yards. Open garage doors show all of the junk inside, and bikes and scooters lay abandoned in yards. Nobody’s worried about their stuff getting stolen in the middle of the day. (Chapter 18, 0%)

This description suggests that the new neighborhood is both safer than Garden Heights and more open and diverse than the sheltered area around Williamson. 

On a more general level, the new neighborhood may also be a hopeful symbol of the way the world can be if people overcome their prejudice, and if discrimination against African Americans becomes less widespread in US society. It also represents a personal hope for Starr that her two worlds can be combined, so she no longer has to deal with maintaining two different identities to fit two different areas.  

It is also important to note that we do not get the sense that the Carter family has fully abandoned Garden Heights. Maverick is determined to rebuild his store after the fire and to help rebuild the neighborhood. 

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