The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
You won’t have missed how loved and praised Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give is. It is taking over the world, having made it to the top of the NYT bestseller list. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give is about 16-year-old Starr, who lives in two worlds: a world of privilege – not her’s, but surrounded by everyone else’s – at her posh, private school. And she lives in a world of injustice and poverty, at home in the poor neighbourhood she’s known her whole life. Suddenly the boundary is shattered when her unarmed friend Khalil is shot and killed by a police officer. Everyone knows. Everyone is talking about it. But will Starr be heard?
The Hate U Give tells the experience of a determined young woman and a frightened teenager, forced to be both in a society that values neither. Starr has a strong voice: witty, passionate and inspiring, and she knows how to play a role. It was fascinating to watch her alter how she speaks and acts depending on whether she’s with friends at home or at school. At the heart of The Hate U Give is a strong and poignant family dynamic. It’s the most important thing to Starr, even if not the most stable presence in her life, and it’s what gets her fighting for justice for Khalil. It was really refreshing to see parents feature so heavily in a YA story.
If you’ve not yet picked it up, The Hate U Give is a must-read for those who aren’t already aware of the discrimination that is prolific in our society, from racial bias in the media and justice system to police brutality against unarmed men – it’s not new, and it’s not limited to the USA, but it’s something that won’t go away by ignoring it.
The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord
I raved about When We Collided for months after it brought me out of a reading slump and became one of my favourite books. I wanted more of Emery Lord’s beautiful writing and so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on The Names They Gave Us. (I still haven’t picked up her first two books, but I very recently bought The Start of Me and You!).
Lucy Hansson has her life all figured out until her long-term boyfriend ‘pauses’ their relationship over the summer and her mum’s cancer comes back. To help her cope with the upheaval, her mum suggests that she work for a camp for troubled young people instead of her usual Bible camp, so Lucy heads to Camp Daybreak.
I thoroughly enjoyed the summer camp setting. It made me feel the same way boarding school stories do, probably because it’s something I haven’t experienced. I nearly applied to work for Camp America (and then shortly after remembered that children intimidate me, shh). I wish I had done it because it would’ve been an excellent life experience, as Lucy discovers. I loved watching Lucy make new friends and become more open-minded. I was hesitant about the religious aspect, being an atheist who went to a Catholic school, but there’s still a lot to enjoy about The Names They Gave Us. It has been nearly three months since I read this book but the scene of the campers being sorted into their Hogwarts Houses still sticks in my mind.
The Names They Gave Us hasn’t replaced When We Collided as my favourite Emery Lord, but I adored the entire cast of characters, from the camp counsellors to the campers and Lucy’s family.
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
I missed out on All the Bright Places when it came out, but I was instantly intrigued after it was described as the next The Fault in Our Stars. It has been more than five years since Hazel Grace Lancaster met Augustus Waters, so I was ready for more!
All the Bright Places sees Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, two unhappy teenagers, become friends under unusual circumstances. Theodore is up on the ledge of the bell tower at school, contemplating jumping, when he sees Violet. After talking her down, there’s an unexpected bond between them.
In All the Bright Places, I particularly enjoyed seeing Theodore and Violet bond together. I expected to fall in love with both characters – like the world fell in love with Gus and Hazel – but Theodore and Violet are stuck playing a role with everyone except each other. It’s difficult to explain poor mental health to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, and so Theodore and Violet found solace in each other.
All the Bright Places doesn’t top The Fault in Our Stars for me, but it was wonderful watching them getting to know each other!