If you’re looking for a culturally relevant text your students will truly care about, consider adding Angie Thomas’s powerful and critically acclaimed novel The Hate U Give to your syllabus. This text is in direct response to social issues—and their corresponding movements—happening right now. The Hate U Give tackles topics like police brutality, gun violence, and the weaponizing of stereotypes (society’s use of stereotypes to justify violence and racism). Thomas writes about these issues with genuine respect for humanity but without shying away from some harsh truths. This novel can help facilitate class discussion on these important problems.

The Hate U Give is rich with literary merit, offering opportunities for students to analyze symbols and motifs. Perhaps most notable is Tupac Shakur’s concept of “thug life,” which explains the cyclical nature of poverty and names systemic racism as the main culprit. Students can use this thematic thread to glean deeper meaning from other symbols, such as Khalil’s hairbrush, Black Jesus, and officer “One-Fifteen.” These, among others, demonstrate the strength of the African American community in the face of a system that works against them.

In addition, horticulture is a prominent motif in the novel; Starr lives in Garden Heights, and Maverick tends to a rose garden. Students can track this motif’s appearance and analyze what each instance might convey about childhood and parenthood: How does a child’s environment affect upbringing? How can parents effectively raise their kids in an unfavorable environment?

There are a lot of engaging activities you can employ for The Hate U Give based on its pop culture references alone. Starr loves Harry Potter, and her life experiences and relationships compare with Harry’s in interesting ways. Harry’s journey to save the wizarding world mirrors Starr’s mission to fight for justice in her community; however, Harry is commended for defying the rules in the face of justice, while Starr is condemned, illustrating a racial double standard. Students will appreciate discovering connections between these two works, comparing character traits, and juxtaposing fantasy and reality.

Starr also loves The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Students will enjoy exploring this TV series as an allegory of Starr’s life: Both feature a black teenager transplanted into a predominantly white environment. To help students understand this comparison as an illustration of a broader truth, consider asking them to think about or share a movie, TV series, book, or other form of media that resonates with them.

We have nothing but love for The Hate U Give—read on to discover more.

Summary of The Hate U Give

Key Facts

  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Length: 444 pages
  • Lexile Measure: HL590L
  • Recommended Grade Band: 10-11

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter feels torn between two worlds: the low-income, mostly black neighborhood in which she lives, and her affluent, predominantly white preparatory school. One night, she witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend by a police officer. This tragedy obliterates any balance between Starr’s two identities as she endures pressure from both sides. Ultimately, Starr speaks out against the shooting and becomes deeply involved in the fight for justice.

Content Warning: The Hate U Give contains some sexual content and instances of violence, profanity, drug abuse, and underage drinking.

What Your Students Will Love About The Hate U Give

  • References to pop culture, including rap music and the Harry Potter series
  • Starr’s relatable struggle to fit in, as well as her inspiring battle for justice

Potential Student Struggles With The Hate U Give

  • The novel contains instances of gun violence that may be triggering for some students.
  • The book does not deeply explore the riot that occurs, nor does it necessarily work through characters’ understanding of it; students might need this event contextualized outside the content of the novel.

Learning Objectives for The Hate U Give

  • Trace themes involving injustice, systemic racism, and poverty as they develop over the course of the text.
  • Identify and analyze important symbols and motifs, including rap lyrics, pop culture references, and horticulture.
  • Compare the identities between which Starr feels torn, noting important figures in her life who pull her away from or toward one side.
  • Discuss real-world implications of gun violence and police brutality, with the sensitive nature of these issues in mind.
  • Consider how Starr’s beloved franchises—Harry Potter and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air—mirror her experiences.

Literary Elements in The Hate U Give

  • Allegory
  • Allusion
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Juxtaposition
  • Motif
  • Symbolism
  • Theme
  • And more!

Major Themes in The Hate U Give

Race — The novel explores the consequences of weaponizing racial stereotypes; it also offers the perspective of a black teenager struggling to speak on behalf of her community.

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Justice — In The Hate U Give, the reader will witness opposing sides of a relevant social movement regarding prejudice and police brutality.

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Identity — The reader, through Starr, explores what it’s like to feel torn between two selves and not fully belonging in either one.

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Other Resources for The Hate U Give

Order The Hate U Give Resources from Prestwick House

Resource Format
The Hate U Give Paperback Student Edition