What do you think of when you see the words: Thug Life?
Is it a statement that is scary because it is associated with gang members? Is it a rap/hip hop call for people to gather together? Is it a "black" thing? Or is it an acronym for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everyone?"
How you read the words "Thug Life" is a portion of this book as the book seems to revolve around this statement.
Billed as the first Black Lives Matter YA book, the story is about Starr Carter, a 16 year old African American girl who goes to a posh private school outside of her neighborhood. Her father is a former King, a local gang, who got out after serving jail time, but now runs a local store where he looks to help other gang members looking to get out. She has half brothers and sisters who connect her to King and their leader.
Starr finds herself at a party where she runs into an old childhood friend Khalil. She has not seen him in years, but they find themselves talking when a fight breaks out at the party. As they leave, Khalil is pulled over for a broken tail light. While the officer is checking Khalil's license, Khalil moves toward his front door to check on Starr, when three shots ring out. Khalil is killed by the officer with Starr as the only witness.
As Starr decides to participate in the investigation, she finds the system is a rigged against Khalil as a story breaks that he was connected to the Kings. Khalil is turned into a drug dealing thug, even though Starr knows he did nothing that night. As things progress and as a trial begins, tensions begin to form in Starr's lives- her hometown life and her life in her private school where she is one of the few African American students. What happens when all her worlds collide and as justice begins to sway against Kahlil?
From the beginning, we know how a portion of the story will end. We know exactly how it will end, but rather that being bad writing, it reveals what we know about the justice system. In the book, it takes a long time for that story to end though and the tension just builds and builds until it comes to a breaking point when the ending we all know will happen, happens.
There are lots of stories in this book and I liked how the book slightly revolves around the idea of "Thug Life" and what that means. There are "thugs" in the Kings, Starr is seen as a "thug" simply because she is a black woman in a white world, Kahlil is seen as a "thug" even though he was completely innocent, but the main point is when there isn't justice for everyone, it hurts everybody. There is a great speech by the father to Starr as he explains this phrase and the importance of education and opportunities from birth to death, especially for those who do not have privilege.
If there is a critique, it is the book is a bit long and gets a bit lost within all the story lines. It is a big ambitious book which is great, but I think it was just a tad bit too big. There were also some characters who become caricatures of themselves. I didn't mind though and that is being a bit picky.
I found this to be a book that I will recommend to many people. I think it is worth reading by a large group, especially in these times. It tells the BLM from the perspective of an African American woman who is in the center of everything.
I gave this one 4.5 stars.