Tuesday, 26 September 2017

T.H.U.G, a review

It's been a little while since I've last done a blog post, apologies for that! The shop has been hectic and so trying to find time can be a little tough. However, after reading this book I couldn't let it go untalked about. There has already been a bit of a buzz about this one in the wider book community but it's really amazing how much having even one staff member know/read about a book can change its rate of recommendation. So what is this book that I speak of?

T.H.U.G by Angie Thomas, refers to Tupac's description of the 'thug life' as 'The Hate U Give Little Infants F** Everyone' and indeed THUG gives (even more so) a personal face to the institutionalised struggles of class and race set against the Black Lives Matter Movement in the USA as Tupac's maxim is further unpacked.

From the author's website
"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter navigates between the poverty-stricken neighborhood she has grown up in and the upper-crust suburban prep school she attends. Her life is up-ended when she is the sole witness to a police officer shooting her best friend, Khalil, who turns out to have been unarmed during the confrontation – but may or may not have been a drug dealer. As Starr finds herself even more torn between the two vastly different worlds she inhabits, she also has to contend with speaking her truth and, in the process, trying to stay alive herself."

 The writing is fast paced, in part due to the emotional and urgent nature of the story but it was a book that I ripped through in a single day! Clearly, it's a hard topic and one close to Thomas' heart which is apparent through her stylistic choices and elements of teen culture embedded in the pages. A key element of the story and one that resonated with me as a challenge was the way that characters, some peripheral and others central try to 'rationalise' Khalil's death by attributing it as a consequence of his life, when indeed it wasn't often his choice. This isn't to rob agency off people but to understand that if the system is stacked against you, the 'choices' you make aren't necessarily always fair or indicative of you personally. Sometimes in Australia we can seem far away from issues around the world but THUG brings a fictionalised account right to readers' doorstep and asks us to consider how different groups are treated in society. We don't have exactly the same Black Lives Matter movement here of course but neither can we ignore the disparity between Indigenous incarcerations and other social indicators. 

Thomas keeps the story relatively fictional until the final pages where she lists the names of others killed in police shootings around America and it hits hard that yes, like Starr and Khalil each had a story, life and family behind them. The book is by no means a 'cop bashing' tome with Starr's uncle being a respected detective himself but I feel that the emphasis of critique is on how individual attitudes of bystanders and those involved can truly shape the change and mobilisation of the movement and in time, the crisis. 

Young adult fiction is an excellent way to get young people interested and involved in social issues. It's relatable regardless of the society it's set in and the content isn't dry in the slightest! Come have a chat if you'd like to talk about this book more!