Published: February 28th, 2017 by Balzer + Bray | Series: N/A | Length: 464 pages | Genre: YA contemporary | Source: Bought | Possible Triggers: Racism, violence, police brutality, child abuse (no on-page scenes)
Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Man, this has been a hard review to try to write. I finished this book over a week ago and while I normally end up writing my reviews 3 or 4 days after I finish a book, this one has taken me awhile to get to. Truth is, there’s so much that I could say about THUG that I had no clue where to begin.
Let me first say that Starr is a great protagonist. She’s really well-developed as a character. Of course, we see her deal with a lot of tough stuff. She watches her childhood best friend get shot and killed by police and then we see her deal with the aftermath of that incident. She feels guilty for not being able to help him and for then not speaking up the way she thinks she should. On top of that, she has to deal with a lot of ignorant comments from people she goes to school with and other people who try to smear Khalil’s image to make his death “justifiable.” And while these issues are the main focus of the story, we also see Starr have fun and laugh and joke around with her friends and family. We see her come to accept that her life doesn’t have to stop because Khalil’s did. And we see her find her voice and become courageous enough to speak out against injustice. Starr really goes through so much during this book and I loved watching her deal with all of it and see how it changes her.
Another thing I really liked was how much of a role Starr’s family plays in this book. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to many of you that YA often has a family problem: the families often don’t seem to exist. Either the parents are dead or they just don’t seem to care about what the protagonist is doing. This is really not a problem at all with THUG. Starr’s parents and her older brother are her biggest support system as she struggles with everything she’s going through. The family interactions between all of them felt so real and were really well written.
I can’t possibly write a review about THUG without mentioning how it discusses the issues of racism, police brutality, etc. Of course, I’m white, so really my opinions on this are certainly not the most important ones (seriously, please read some reviews from Black reviewers). However, I think Angie Thomas did a fantastic job of showing readers how pervasive these issues for Black Americans. As a reader, you really get to see how racism impacts every aspect of the characters’ lives and you get to see how utterly inescapable it is. I think this will resonate with all readers – it will either be relatable or eye-opening.
One last thing that I think is really worth mentioning is the relationship between Starr and her white boyfriend, Chris. I think this relationship will be especially valuable to white readers. Chris, like any white person, slips up and despite his attempts to understand Starr’s struggles, still says racist or offensive things sometimes. What I really liked about this is that Starr always calls him out when he does this and Chris always does his best to understand why what he said is racist/offensive, rather than responding defensively. Like I said, I think their relationship will be especially valuable to white readers, as it will show how you should react when you inevitably mess up.
It’s pretty clear that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I usually try to comment on something that could’ve been improved in every review I write, but I honestly couldn’t think of anything to criticize about THUG. THUG truly deserves every ounce of praise that it has gotten. I highly recommend that everyone reads this book because regardless of your background, I’m almost positive something about it will resonate with you.