Arts Editor | Mimi Markham
Every so often, a new publication shakes the waters of the usually quiet internet book community. In February 2017, Angie Thomas’ ‘The Hate U Give’ did just this and its ripples have resonated across the publishing industry, inspiring a recent film adaption.
The story follows Starr Caster’s journey towards activism after she witnesses the police shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil. It is an important book that balances full and vibrant characters with heavy themes. The result is a reading experience that alternates tears and smiles with every page turn.
Although this October’s film adaptation met modest box-office success, its critical reception has ranged from an example of a solid book-to-film adaptation to claims it deserves an Oscar. Although it is early days, the film is likely to leave a lasting mark in an industry criticised for whitewashing and failing to proportionally address stories reflecting our diverse world.
It is already apparent ‘The Hate U Give’ has affected the publishing world. While writing her debut novel, Angie Thomas was unsure publishers would be interested in a book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement. A few months later, thirteen publishing houses participated in an auction to acquire the rights to the novel. Prominent publishing house Harper Collins ultimately won and the film rights were swiftly scooped up by 20th Century Fox.
Angie Thomas entered the book world at precisely the right moment. The ‘We Need Diverse Books’ organisation has been growing since 2014. It argues that all readers should find similar characters to themselves in the books they read, focussing particularly on children’s and young adult fiction. With a greater self-awareness of how many of their favourite characters come from largely similar backgrounds, the online book community embraced the campaign. ‘The Hate U Give’ sat at the top of the New York Times Young Adult best sellers list for over fifty weeks, before winning two categories of the Goodreads Annual Awards. It is not uncommon for book bloggers to review the merit of their latest reads, in part, by a consideration of the diversity of its characters and settings.
The publishing industry has jumped at this movement, treating it as one of YA’s ever moving trends. Some Waterstones branches feature displays showcasing the recent releases of BAME writers and books taking place in diverse settings. Prominent titles include: ‘Children of Blood and Bone’ by Tomi Adeyemi, a Nigerian-American writer, whose fantasy world draws heavily on her heritage; and ‘Orangeboy’, by Patrice Lawrence, who was raised in an Italian-Trinidadian family before winning multiple awards for her writing.
Unlike the genre’s previous trends of supernatural romances and dystopian worlds, this one is more than the fleeting passions of this decade’s teenagers. It is a movement that is here to say and its ripples are sure to spread across other forms of media. It is a movement that publishes stories and experiences that have rarely been seen in novel format. It is a movement that seeks to include all young people by providing them with characters they can relate to and who can expand their understanding of the world.