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“[A] page turner brimming with pop culture references and humor…I marveled at the balancing act between dead-serious politics and concerns familiar to kids and former kids of all backgrounds. …[T]here's plenty for readers of all ages to enjoy.” Marjorie Ingall - New York Times Book Review
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life. (From the publisher.)
1. In navigating issues of race relations, the author gives Starr 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?
2. 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?
3. How did this book change your views on racism in our society?
4. What did you think of the portrayal of Chris and Starr’s relationship and the challenges they faced as an interracial couple?
5. As Starr and Khalil listen to Tupac, Khalil explains what Tupac said "Thug Life" meant. Discuss the meaning of the term "Thug Life" as an acronym and why the author might have chosen part of this as the title of the book. In what ways do you see this in society today?
6. Chapter 2 begins with Starr flashing back to two talks her parents had with her when she was young. One was about sex ("the usual birds and bees"). The second was about what precautions to take when encountering a police officer. Have you had a similar conversation about what to do when stopped by the police?
7. At the police station after Starr details the events leading up to the shooting, the detective shifts her focus to Khalil’s past. Why do you think the detective did this?
8. How do you think Starr would define family? What about Seven? How do you define it?
9. How and why does the neighborhood react to the grand jury’s decision? How does Starr use her voice as a weapon, and why does she feel that it is vital that she does?
10. Starr pledges to "never be quiet". After reading this book, how can you use your voice to promote and advance social justice? Reflect on how you and your community discuss and address inequality.
• Birth—ca. 1987-88
• Where—Jackson, Mississippi, USA
• Education—B.F.A., Belhaven University
• Awards—Walter Dean Myers Grant
• Currently—lives in Jackson, Mississippi
Angie Thomas is an African-American author and former teen rapper. Her debut novel, The Hate U Give, whose manuscript was the object of a 13-publishing-house bidding war, was released in 2016 by a HarperCollins young adult imprint. The book has received wide acclaim, starred reviews, and considered required reading by the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly. Thomas was raised, and still lives, in Jackson, Mississippi. From a young age, she was enthralled by stories and books. At the age of six, while out riding her bike, she was nearly trapped in the middle of gun fire. After that frightening experience, Angie turned to books and escaped into another world, soon using her own imagination to tell and write stories. Knowing budding talent when she saw it, her third grade teacher asked Angie to read one of her stories to the class every Friday after lunchtime. Several years on, Thomas became a teen rapper—a proud achievement was a feature article about her in Right-On magazine. Thomas went on to graduate from Belhaven University where she studied creative writing. She won the very first Walter Dean Myers Grant, awarded in 2015 by We Need Diverse Books. (Adapted from various online sources, including the author's website.)