The Hate U Give

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This book. Damn. I can’t even.
This book is powerful.
It’s been quite awhile since I’ve felt the need to stop reading a book, just to hunt down sticky notes to write comments about specific passages of a novel.

I’m always a little nervous about books that get a lot of hype preceding and immediately at their release, we’ve all been burned by that before. However, considering how relevant this book’s contents our to modern American life, the hype was well deserved. This book deals with a lot a big topics like social class, race, identity, teen life, interracial relationships, but most notably: police brutality.

Starr lives in Garden Heights, a poor black neighborhood, “the ghetto,” run in part by rival gangs. Starr has lived in Garden Heights most of her life, but her parents send her to a private school in the rich, suburban, white neighborhood (li’l more on why this is an important addition later). Our story starts at a Garden Heights party, where Starr runs into a childhood best friend, Khalil. Trouble breaks out at the party so Starr and Khalil leave together, not knowing the night will only get worse from there. A “routine stop” for a broken tail light ends with Khalil being shot and killed. 

That Hate U Give is the aftermath of Khalil’s death.

Angie Thomas tackles police brutality in a way like never before. And while this story largely revolves around the shooting of an unarmed black teen, so many other sociological issues come into play as well. Angie Thomas hits on all of these big social issues without being preachy or self-righteous; it is raw, realistic, and powerful.

I think it was brilliant on Angie Thomas’ part to have Starr attend a school where the majority of the student body is white, rich, and privileged so as to show the two very different worlds that exist right next door to each other. Throughout the book, Starr struggles between which Starr she is in which circumstance, she keeps her school life and home life separate, until eventually they collide.
With one friend, Hailey, we get the perspective of white privilege, the “All Lives Matter” voice if you will. Hailey is everyone’s “racist-but-doesn’t-think-they’re-racist” family member who can’t see past their own ignorance. You frequently want to smack her, but her character is vital to this story. I feel like every white person who doesn’t seem to think police involved shootings are a big deal NEEDS to read this and realize we need to stop trying to rationalize the real-life deaths of people similar to Khalil by labeling people as “just a drug dealer.”

“And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door.”

One of my favorite parts of this books is a conversation between Starr and her dad, Maverick. It’s a meaningful conversation between father and daughter about why good kids, like Khalil, turn to dealing drugs to survive. Their conversation takes place after Khalil’s death and centers around the Tupac quote that led to the title of this book. “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody” – t.h.u.g.l.i.f.e.

A chopped up version of the most profound part of this conversation that I love:

Lack of opportunities. Corporate America don’t bring jobs to our communities, and they damn sure ain’t quick to hire us. Then, shit, even if you do have a high school diploma, so many schools in our neighborhoods don’t prepare us well enough. Our schools don’t get the resources to equip you. It’s easier to find some crack than it is to find a good school around here.
Now think ’bout this. How did the drugs even get in our neighborhood? This is a multibillion-dollar industry we talkin’ about, baby. That shit is flown into our communities but I don’t know anybody with a private jet.
Drugs come from somewhere, and they’re destroying our community.
You got folks like Brenda, who think they need them to survive, and then you got the Khalils, who think they need to sell them to survive. The Brendas can’t get jobs unless they’re clean, and they can’t pay for rehab unless they get jobs. When the Khalils get arrested for selling drugs, they either spend most of their life in prison, another billion-dollar industry, or they have a hard time getting a real job and probably start selling drugs again.
That’s the hate they’re giving us, baby, a system designed against us. That’s Thug life.”

This book is important. I can’t even adequately explain this book or the things it made me feel. You’ll just have to read it, and know: the hype is worth it. It’s fiction but the circumstances, the emotions, the frustrations… are all too real.

 

A Man Called Ove: Some Thoughts

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I was a little unsure about reading this book, though I’m not sure why because I had mostly heard good things. The other day I was contemplating checking it out from the library and had it sitting next to me at the circulation desk, when a patron came up and in the middle of asking a legit question, interrupted herself to ask if I was reading A Man Called Ove, and I told her I was thinking I should try it. She was very excited having just recently read it herself (I can relate to such excitement) and she wouldn’t tell me much about it besides whispering “He’s a grumpy fuck.” This was the best book review I had heard in awhile, so I figured why not!

Is it weird that my almost 25 year-old female self can relate to a grumpy old man? Because I totally can. I feel like I’ve got the grumpy old person thing pretty much down most days. Writing notes to people to tell them they are a “useless bloody imbecile who couldn’t even read signs?” Love it. I wish I were that cool.

“He’d been a grumpy old man since he started elementary school”

What can I say about Ove.. He is a grumpy, sarcastic, stickler of a man. He likes rule,  principles, Saab automobiles, and doesn’t have time for your stupidity. Ove regularly refers to people simply by descriptors as opposed to names (ie. The Pregnant One, The Lanky One, The Blonde Weed, Cat Annoyance) some of which are pretty humorous. As Ove begins to connect with said people though, they begin to be referred to by their actual names as opposed to Ove’s observational names, something I must assume is intentional on Backman’s part.

I’m a fan of good use of flashback chapters as a means of explaining a characters back story and circumstance; A Man Called Ove is no exception, Backman does a nice job of letting the reader into who Ove really is. We see his true character as that of more than just a grumpy old curmudgeon, he has a big heart and cares about doing what is right. I also enjoyed how Ove’s character develops throughout the story, especially the latter part of book. (Lack of character development is one of my biggest pet peeves.) We see a man who is seemingly alone and shut off become more engaging (at times begrudgingly) with his neighbors and become invested in doing the things he knows to be right.

Though I am hardly qualified to really evaluate language and writing style, I enjoyed such about A Man Called Ove. The wit and sass were not lost in translation. There were some lovely quotable moments, for instance: “He skeptically peruses this grammatically challenged little natural disaster” when referring to Nasanin (the three-year-old) who then and there became my favorite character. There was also a fun use of vulgar words. I love a good swear word used well!

On more than one occasion Ove’s character reminded me a a few other somewhat social inept characters I enjoy. Which then to the realization that apparently I enjoy grumpy, sarcastic, anti-social characters (shocker).  Some such characters include Don Tillman (of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project) and Martin Clunes’ character Dr. Martin Ellingham (of Doc Martin). If you aren’t familiar with either of these characters, but were a fan of Ove, I highly recommend checking them out 😉

 

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The Husband’s Secret

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Before reading this, I had heard quite a few positive rumblings about this book, and I’m usually pretty skeptical of book recommendations, but I’ll confess I didn’t regret picking this one up. My first encounters with many books happens at work. (Psst, I work in a public library). When I worked as a page (shelver) there was usually ample time to skim what we had on the shelves, and  titles that you put away time and time again start to stick with you and occasionally peak your interest. Unless it is one of the Fifty Shades books, in which case, I’m not interested.
Anyhow, all that to say, I first came in contact with Liane Moriarty books by putting them back on the shelf at the library constantly. I will admit that on numerous occasions I saw her name and just thought of Sherlock…

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Naturally, when I happened across both The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies at a library book sale (Yeah, I fucking love the library), and they were practically brand new, I had to snatch them up. After four months of living in a tote bag in the living room, I figured it was time to give The Husband’s Secret a shot. I had been in a bit of a book rut for a while, a page turner was much needed, and The Husband’s Secret did the trick.

*Warning: Spoiler at the end*

First, I have to admit, I am a big fan of books with multiple narrators. I enjoy when the author shows us differing perspectives of the same story, when we are in multiple people’s heads so to speak at different times as the story progresses. Basically, I’m a sucker for multiple narrator stories.

The Husband’s Secret takes place during the week leading up to Easter, and we get to experience the story from the perspective of three different women: Cecelia, Tess, and Rachel. All of these women are pretty intriguing in their own ways, and all three are dealing with some complicated family issues.

Tess: Just found out her cousin and husband have secretly fallen in love with each other.
Cecelia: Crazy organized (read OCD) mother of three and Tupperware saleswoman finds out some staggering info about her husband’s past and is faced with what to do with said information.
Rachel: Lost her teenage daughter nearly thirty years ago, but will never be able to move past it. And now her son and daughter-in-law are planning to move across the world with her one and only grandson, Jacob.

This book hits on some difficult topics and brings our own moral standards into question. As the reader there were multiple occasions where I felt I needed to ask myself what would I do if I were in the position of any of the lead females?

I’ve read quite a few criticisms of these females, but personally I found myself relating to each of them on some level, even if I haven’t found myself in any of their positions. I connected with Tess in particular, perhaps because I took her character to have a bit of a “well screw this” mentality, something I can appreciate. While I cringed at some of the choices she made throughout this book, I could respect the way she processed her issues with her husband, Will.

*Spoiler Incoming* 

Far too often I feel our popular books, movies, television, etc. send this message that it’s perfectly okay to give up on a relationship when it doesn’t go according to plan or when someone messes up. I don’t mean to condone infidelity in any way, but life is messy and people fuck up. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I appreciated that in the end Tess seems to ultimately decide that it is better to CHOOSE to stay with Will and work things out. Love is a choice, something worth staying and fighting for. This just got really mushy..

*Ok the scary spoiler is over now*

All in all, I enjoyed this read, it wasn’t earth shattering or life changing, but it was enjoyable just the same. This was my first Liane Moriarty book and I’m excited to see what some of her other novels are like!