Heavy Medal Finalist – The Hate U Give
Short List Title: THE HATE U GIVE
(Titles on our short list will be included in the live Mock Newbery in Oakland.)
We started our posts on the Heavy Medal Short List and Long List titles on Wednesday; now we’ve decided to tweak the process a little bit. Instead of discussing two books per post, we’re going to post on one title at a time, five times a week in the next three weeks. It’s interesting and useful to compare two books side by side, but we’ll steer away from that for this phase. As Roxanne pointed out earlier this week, during committee deliberations there is limited time to discuss each book, so you have to really focus on the title in front of you. Comparing that title to other books from the year can be very illuminating, but rarely does a discussion center on comparing two particular books.
We realized that combining two books in one post might sway readers into linking those two together while deliberating. Instead, we hope participants will concentrate on the single featured book and consider whether it’s distinguished among the 18 books, making direct comparisons to any eligible titles where it helps to illuminate or support observations and opinions. That already happened with our first post; several books besides CLAYTON BYRD and FIRST RULE were mentioned already. But we hope separating the posts will make it a little clearer. Here’s the next one up:
I got pretty caught up in the story the first time I read THE HATE U GIVE; the second time through I was able to pay more attention to more particular elements of the writing. I especially appreciated how plots and themes work together. Khalil’s death is the central plot element, but it also triggers explorations into many other parts of Starr’s world, from her school friends and her “Williamson rules” to a gradually deepening understanding of her family and her neighborhood. Thomas does an excellent job of bringing these to the surface in ways that should resonate strongly with young readers, including 12-14 year olds.
She also does a masterful job with characterizations. Amid all the thought-provoking issues and dramatic events, Starr is a complex, fully realized character, and most of her family and friends are distinct and believable. A lot comes through in smaller moments and conversations. Like when little brother Sekani sweetly gives her an apology card, but still depicts her with devil horns so it would be “real” (281). Or the exchange where Kenya challenges Starr’s loyalty and Starr admits to herself (but not to Kenya) that the accusation may have merit (198).
The language and some of the content certainly raise the question of children as an “intended audience,” even with the 0-14 range. But I think a case can be made that the most distinguished elements of this book, especially in terms of characterization, plot, and themes, will resonate as strongly with middle school ages as they will with high school age readers. THUG is certainly one of the most popular and talked about books of the year…does it have a shot at the Newbery?
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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