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The Hate U Give: Why you should read the book before heading to the cinema

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With the much anticipated release of the movie adaptation of another YA bestseller this week, many people will be flocking to the cinema to spend two hours immersed in a different world and snacking on popcorn.

But, for some people, this experience does not bring a new story for them. They have already spent several hours curled up under their duvet, on the couch, in a coffee shop or on a busy train, reading the book version first.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, first released in February 2017, was a number one New York Times bestseller, as well as being nominated for several awards and included on many shortlists.

Heavily influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement and the shooting of Oscar Grant III in 2009, the popular novel is the coming-of-age tale of 16-year-old Starr Carter who lives in a poor, mostly black community, whilst attending a posh private school in a rich white neighbourhood nearby. Everything changes when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her – black, unarmed – best friend at the hands of a white policeman.

Described as a “powerful and brave YA novel about what prejudice looks like in the 21st century”, The Hate U Give is certainly very relevant in today’s society where stories like Starr’s friend Khalil’s seem to crop up Stateside on a regular basis.

With the movie released on Monday this week in the UK - right in the heart of our Black History Month - we would be hard-pushed to find a more appropriate time to bring the issue to back to the media’s attention.

That said, I am and always have been a firm believer in reading the book before watching the movie version – and I haven’t changed my mind with The Hate U Give either.

When I read the book at the end of last year, it stuck with me for much longer afterwards than most other novels ever have. Confronting issues of race and class in such a believable setting, there is an important message to be taken away from the story. I’m jealous of people who haven’t read this book yet, because I wish I could go back and experience it again for the first time.

And this isn’t the only YA book-to-movie adaptation that we have seen recently. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before was difficult to miss on Netflix with what seemed like the entirety of Twitter talking about it every time I logged on, as well as the adaptation of Crazy Rich Asians hitting the screens last month.

For a lot of people, watching the movie version is the first time they have come in contact with these stories. For me, movie adaptations can be excellent, but they don’t come close to the full body experience of reading a good book. Character development is slightly more difficult in a film too, with less time to cram everything in which usually means scrapping some of the details that us readers loved so much in the book, not to mention the fact that a first person narrative gets you straight in the head of the protagonist.

Reading the book only enriches the movie experience for me. I already feel like I know the characters inside out before heading into the cinema, ready to see them come to life and compare them to how I had imagined them to be. Sometimes this can be disappointing when it turns out different to what you expected, but more often than not I leave the cinema feeling more fulfilled than after a regular movie.

I haven’t been to the cinema to see The Hate U Give yet. I can’t tell you if it is good or bad, or worth your money or not. But, what I can tell you is that you are making a mistake if you are going in there without prior knowledge of Angie Thomas’ perfectly crafted world and a clear picture of how you want Starr to be.

This is a story that you want to get the full depth of, especially if it is to have any effect on the horrific injustice it portrays.

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