discussion questions prepared by Kelly Carey
Angie Thomas’s YA novel The Hate U Give is a stark and raw platform for discussions on racism, prejudice, and the Black Lives Matter movement. It is also, just as simply, a wonderfully crafted novel rich in character, setting, and excellent story telling. Through Starr, Thomas offers a voice to readers living the reality of violence, drugs, and racism while simultaneously offering a window into that life for readers whose experiences are very different. Thomas blends the harshest moments of her main character’s reality—the police shooting of her friend, intimidation by a local drug lord, and gang violence—seamlessly with the universal teenage experiences of friendship drama, first loves, and the push/pull of independence from home and parents. This juxtaposition paints a picture often not represented, or sometimes misrepresented, on book shelves.
Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate The Hate U Give. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Thomas’s methods.
These discussion questions were inspired by the KidLit Book Club meeting at The Writers’ Loft. We’d love to have you join us. Check out the Loft calendar to find out about our next meeting!
- In navigating issues of race relations, Thomas gave her MC the ability to speak from a variety of perspectives: as a young black girl living in a tough urban setting, as a student in a suburban and predominantly white school, and as the niece of a police officer. How did Starr’s ability to know different environments and experiences aid the story?
- Starr intentionally speaks differently when she is at home with her urban black friends as opposed to when she is at school with her suburban white prep school friends. How did Thomas employ the idea of “voice” in writing to show character and conflict?
- Why did we care about Khalil by page 24 when the encounter with the police officer occurs? What subtle but powerful writing tools did Thomas use to completely round out Khalil’s character by page 24?
- Thomas peppers her story with minor characters who take on major plot roles and add richness to the overall novel. Did Thomas achieve the goal of making minor characters be main characters in their own story? Why or why not? Consider how the story would have been changed if readers did not fully know DeVante, Mr. Lewis, or Iesha.
- How do you keep your story topical but not dated? Thomas references the Huxtables, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Space Jam. What are the benefits and dangers of using pop culture references in a novel?
- How would you compare the writing and plots of The Hate U Give and The Outsiders? How do both offer real and raw insight into teenage life and social reality? How do both balance violence with hope?
- Who is the readership for Thomas’s novel? Will this be a book read by an equal number of adults and young readers? Will young readers seek this book out? Or will parents and gatekeepers share it with young readers? When you write, do you think about your ideal reader, or do you simply write the story in your heart?
- Will a reader’s race, environment, and socio-economic background have a major or minor effect on how they read and react to The Hate U Give? Will the story and the main character ring true regardless of the reader’s race? What writing tools did Thomas use to make her story and characters universal?
- Thomas’s book offers commentary on difficult social issues. How does Thomas deliver her story without becoming preachy?
- How does Thomas weave the relationship between Starr and Hailey into her story? How does this subplot help the overall novel? What techniques does Thomas employ to make the relationship seem natural and real–both in its creation and its demise?
- Consider the plot and the end of the novel. How does Thomas use Starr’s police officer uncle to aid the plot and Starr’s mother’s job opportunity to develop a satisfying conclusion? How would the novel have changed if Starr’s uncle had not been a police officer? What could the ending of the novel have been if Starr’s mother did not get her new job? In what ways do you use characters to move your plot and find your ending? What strategies do you employ to make those moments believable rather than forced?
- One of the themes in Thomas’ book is “voice as a weapon for change.” Starr is encouraged to speak out and use her voice to fight for Khalil and justice. How, as a writer, did Thomas use her own voice as a weapon for change? Do you have manuscripts that use characters and plots that are your voice for change?
To learn more about Angie Thomas, visit her website at http://angiethomas.com.