Teen Movie Review: The Hate U Give
Review written by Maggie Hankins, Teen Aide at Petworth Library and member of the Teen Council since 2018.
The Hate U Give debuted as a book in 2017 and was later adapted into a movie in 2018. It follows Starr Carter, a girl who straddles the line between her majority-Black, lower-income neighborhood of Garden Heights and her majority white, affluent private school. After shots are fired at a party, her childhood friend and former crush Khalil offers to drive her home. A police officer stops Khalil and fatally shoots him and Starr is the only witness. The book and the movie adaptation follow Starr’s work to get justice for Khalil as she grapples with her place in her two communities.
I remember reading the book when it first came out. I remember racing through it and really relating to Starr. I saw myself and my experiences in Starr’s struggle with code-switching. Code-switching is the practice of switching between two ‘languages’, in my case and Starr’s case switching between a more articulated ‘white’ language with very little slang and African American Vernacular English. The movie didn’t impact me as much as the book, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I think it balances the seriousness of the subject matter with moments of humor and appeals to a YA audience without condescension.
My only criticism of the movie is more a criticism of its message (and how it has aged) rather than a criticism of the movie itself. When the book was written and later adapted to this movie, “Black Lives Matter” was a more radical sentiment that carried a lot of weight. As such, the movie’s support of the movement (and the slogan) and its argument against All Lives Matter was viewed as radical. Now, in this political moment of mass protests and widespread disillusionment with the system of policing and pushes to reform, defund and even abolish policing, the movie’s message is more muted. The movie addresses the beginning of a movement and why you should care, whereas now, the goalposts have shifted and audiences may be looking more for answers rather than the questions the movie leaves you with. For that reason, I think the movie is now the beginning of a conversation for teenagers (and with teenagers) instead of the focal point of that conversation.