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Literature / The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give is a 2017 Young Adult novel by Angie Thomas.

Starr hasn't seen her childhood crush in years. It's partly because her parents have sent her and her brother to a private school with mainly white kids, while eking out a living in Garden Heights. It's also because Khalil has been trying to take care of his ill grandmother. When Khalil drives Starr home after a disastrous party, a cop pulls them over and intimidates them. Starr is Forced to Watch when the cop guns down Khalil for asking if she's okay. The community is furious, especially when the media invokes Victim-Blaming and paints Khalil as a drug dealer. Starr has to decide if she can afford to stay quiet, while battling her trauma of witnessing Khalil die.

A Film of the Book was released in October 2018, starring Amandla Stenberg as Starr.

Two companion books exist: On The Come Up, which takes place in Garden Heights a few months after the events of The Hate U Give but does not feature any characters from it, and Concrete Rose, which is about Maverick Carter in his senior year of high school.


Tropes for this book include:

  • Above the Influence: When Starr is thinking clearly, she puts Chris off, so he knows better than to succumb to what he knows would be Sex for Solace.
  • Abusive Parents: It's all but stated that King abuses Kenya and her siblings.
  • Action Survivor: Starr is a tragic example, and a lot of the book focuses on the aftermath. Yes, she survived a highly traumatic and stressful event, but she's forever changed by it, and is in varying states of emotional ruin throughout.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Chris can't help but find most of the jokes made at his expense funny (and accurate).
  • Adapted Out: Among other characters, Starr's nana, Hailey's brother, and—most notably—DeVante don't appear in the film.
  • Artistic License – Physics: Tear gas canisters are HOT. Starr could not have grabbed one without it badly burning her hand.
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  • Asshole Victim: DeVante feels no sympathy for the McDonald's and pawn shop that get destroyed in the riots. The former underpaid his mother, and the latter had been stinging the Garden Heights community for years. However, Maverick notes that these corporate stores will likely cut their losses and move out after the riots, and that doesn't help anyone.
  • Bait the Dog: King is at first presented as Affably Evil at worst — a criminal, sure, but a polite one with some sense of justice. But as the novel goes on, it becomes clear that he is a truly awful man that must be stopped. He finally crosses the line by attempting to murder DeVante, and then burning down Maverick's store.
  • Battle Cry: "A hairbrush is not a gun!"
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Kenya and DeVante argue instead of flirting.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Even someone as nice as Starr has her limits. She verbally rips One-Fifteen to shreds on live television, snitches on King, and beats the ever-loving crap out of Hailey after she makes one too many snide comments about Khalil.
    • Same thing for Seven, who beats up Hailey's older brother after the boy tried to beat up Starr after calling her a bitch. Lampshaded by one of Maverick's friends.
      I didn't think your nerdy ass had it in you.
  • Big Brother Instinct:
    • Don't hurt Starr on Seven's watch. Don't call her a bitch, either, unless you want to get Tyson'd. He also cares a lot for his other half-sisters Kenya and Lyric, to the point where he was willing to give up his opportunity to go to great colleges out of state, to instead go to a local college so he can look after them.
    • Khalil was also this to Starr, despite the two of them not being biologically related. It's implied that part of the reason he got shot was because he was looking out for her.
  • Big Friendly Dog: The Carter family's pitbull Brickz (so named because he's as heavy as a bunch of bricks).
  • Bigot with a Badge: One-Fifteen, the white police officer who shoots and kills Starr's friend Khalil, allegedly because he saw a gun in his car (it was actually a hairbrush). He denies it was racially motivated, but it's very clear that the only reason Starr and Khalil were pulled over the first place, much less forced from the car, was because they were Black teenagers driving around a lower-income neighborhood. Like with many real life cases of police racism, One-Fifteen gets away with it.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Much as what happened in real life with Michael Brown, Officer Cruise evades charges for murdering Khalil and the police attempt to suppress Garden Heights' righteously furious protest. King also succeeds in burning down Maverick's grocery store. But Starr now has the confidence to stand up for what's right, her family has moved into the suburbs, with an alive DeVante and Seven in tow, King gets arrested on arson and drug charges and Mr. Lewis gives Maverick his storefront as a means to rebuild.
  • Black Gal on White Guy Drama: Starr's father worries about her dating a white boy because he doesn't want to see her get hurt by racism any more than he has to. Averted in that Chris is actually a really good guy, and her father warms up to him somewhat by the end.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: When Chris finds out that Starr was the witness, he gives Starr the silent treatment for a while until the two blow up at each other. Starr calls out Chris on the fact that she watched someone die (which Chris has never done) and Chris is angry at her because she didn't handle her trauma correctly (a fair point). However, Chris points out that what really upset him was the fact that Starr didn't trust him enough to let him in on a whole other part of her life, including where she lived and who her best friend was (also a fair point).
  • But Not Too Black: Averted in the book, played straight in the film. Starr is depicted in the book (as on the front cover) as dark-skinned, while she is played by Amandla Stenberg, who is Black but very light-skinned.
  • Calling the Old Man Out:
    • A variant that gets subverted; Starr is furious when she sees Khalil's mother sobbing about her son, while the former became a drug addict and didn't protect him from getting into drug dealing in the first place. Her mother tells her not to be disrespectful; regardless of what Khalil's mother did, she still gave birth to him.
    • Seven calls out his mother for crashing his birthday party but not showing up to his graduation.
  • Category Traitor: Subverted with Uncle Carlos. Although he is a cop, and he knows the officer that killed Khalil, his number one priority is protecting Starr. When he finds out that Officer Cruise endangered Starr, he punches the former at work and gets suspended. After Maverick accuses him of not being loyal, Carlos explodes and points out that he took care of Starr while Maverick covered for King, a drug lord who didn't deserve loyalty, and went to jail for him.
    • However, Larry (the cop who makes Maverick lie down on the sidewalk and tells him "we're watching you, boy") is also black.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: In the film, scenes shot in Garden Heights are shot with warm, vibrant hues and tones, while ones at the school are more cool and muted. This is to reflect the two sides of Starr’s character, her true self and the version she has to be in order to fit in.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mr. Lewis the Jerk with a Heart of Gold barber. He was a war veteran with prosthetics, and he believes that King shouldn't be ruling the neighborhood. As he tells Maverick, he's an old guy and if he's going to die, he doesn't mind going down with a fight.
  • Dating What Daddy Hates: Subverted; Maverick is worried this is the case when he finds out Starr is dating a white boy. Starr assures him that it's not the case; her dad taught her that she wanted to date a guy like him.
  • Destructive Saviour: One-Fifteen allegedly joined the police force to help rid Garden Heights of its gang wars and drugs problem. In practice, he ended up killing a teenager out of fear. Starr compares this attitude to the slave owners, who also thought they were saving black people from their "wild African ways".
    Starr: I wish people like them would stop thinking that people like me need saving.
  • Domestic Abuse: King is known to beat Iesha, even putting her in the hospital at one point.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Starr really hates being pitied, especially by strangers.
  • Double Standard: Carlos (himself a police officer) tries to explain why the cop who'd killed Khalil might have reacted that way. Starr counters that had it had been a well-dressed white guy, a warning would have been given first before opening fire. Carlos admits that's true.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Played straight. Drugs ruined Ms. Brenda's life and made her an unfit mother to Khalil. Selling them then got him in more trouble. Maverick points out it's the drugs trade that's destroying Garden Heights and other black communities.
    • However, it's also a Deconstructed Trope. The media reporting Khalil as a "suspected drug dealer", and then confirming it, is seen by some as a crossing of the Moral Event Horizon that justifies his death. This is despite the fact he was doing it to raise money to support his grandma, and was trying to "get out of the game" before he died. One character says out loud that the world's better off with one less drug-dealer, and the detectives who investigate Starr try to get her to confirm he was a dealer to make things easier for One-Fifteen.
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Invoked. Starr calls out Hailey for making a fried chicken joke while they play basketball. Maya also recalls that Hailey made an inappropriate Asian joke and no one laughed about it. Eventually Starr decides to cut Hailey out of her life when the latter refuses to understand.
  • Exact Words: The police ask Starr if she knew Khalil was dealing drugs, obviously as an attempt to smear him so the shooting won't look as bad. Starr knows he was but can also tell what they're doing, so she carefully says that she never saw him buy or sell drugs, and that he never told her he was dealing, all of which is true.
  • Faux Affably Evil: King can seem polite at times, but he's rotten to his core. By the end, he's stopped pretending.
  • Fish out of Water: Deconstructed, as it often is in real life. Starr and Seven are two of three black kids in Williamson, and their family is a lot poorer than the rest of Starr's friendship group. Starr has actually adapted quite well, seeing this trope through to the other side...but she did it by micro-managing the way she talks, the slang she uses and how much "attitude" she's allowed to show (how emotional she's allowed to get) and not talking about Garden Heights with anyone. It's a lot of pressure on her, and things blow up hard when she can't manage it anymore.
  • Fisticuff-Provoking Comment: When Hailey remarks that Khalil had his death coming, Starr punches her in the face, starting a brawl that extends to their brothers.
  • A Friend in Need:
    • The entire Garden Heights community it seems. After Khalil died, many of the community got together to cook and help his family prepare and raise funds for the funeral. It's even lampshaded that people help one another and offer what they have (even if all they can offer is a plate or box of some cooked dish) despite not having a lot of money. When Maverick's shop, one of the community staples, is set on fire, the community collectively snitches on the arsonist and they cheer Maverick and his family on while they are doing cleanup.
    • Former community member Carlos and Maverick do this for DeVante's safety.
  • Fun with Acronyms: On a meta level, the first letters of each word in the title spell out THUG. The trailer for the film adaptation spotlights this. That said, the book and film adaptation are alluding to Tupac Shakur's philosophy of THUG LIFE, or The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.
  • Good Parents: Lisa and Mav. They're not perfect, but the safety of their children is always their number one priority.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Averted. Chris and Starr don't have sex because, as Chris points out when Starr tries to initiate it, she's traumatized, and not in the proper frame of mind to make such a big, potentially life-altering decision.
  • Happily Married: Lisa and Maverick have their problems, but they deeply love each other and are very happy as a married couple.
  • Harmful to Minors: Starr and Khalil used to have a third friend named Natasha. Tragically, Natasha lost her life during childhood due to a drive-by shooting by one of King's gang members while she and Starr were playing. To further twist the knife, Starr also reflects that Natasha was scared about seeing what happens after death.
  • Has a Type: Chris is dating Starr (the only black girl in their grade), and his celebrity crushes are Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj. Starr dryly notes that he obviously has a type.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: While appearing to be a Jerkass who seems to be throwing not only Seven but his two younger sisters out when she catches Seven, Starr and Chris trying to sneak DeVante out of King's house, Iesha is actually doing this trope by getting her kids out of the house before King can notice that DeVante is gone, turning all of his anger on her. She ends up hospitalized.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: At the end of the novel, Hailey sends Starr a text saying she's sorry to hear about the court's decision, that Starr is upset with her, and she wants to be friends again. While this makes her a slightly better person, Starr notes that at no point did she actually acknowledge or apologize for her own mistake in being racist (neither to Starr or other cultures) and is still choosing to be blind to her own bigotry. Starr accepts that Hailey is likely never going to change and their friendship is more toxic than healthy, cutting her out of her life for good.
    Starr: I don't have to wait around for her to change. I can let go.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: The central conflict of the novel. Starr is afraid speaking up for Khalil is going to blow her life apart. And then she gets a death threat.
  • In-Series Nickname:
    • Not a nickname, per se, but even after learning his name, Starr always calls the officer that shot Khalil "One-Fifteen," after his badge number.
    • Starr's mom sometimes calls her "Munch."
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • Chris, at one point, asks why black parents often give their kids "weird" names. Starr and her friends point out to him that many of those names have deep meanings in other languages, and, more to the point, it's not like white parents don't give their kids ridiculous names, too. Chris admits they're right, and apologizes for phrasing the question the way he did.
    • In another incident before the book started, he tried to nickname Starr "Caramel" after her skintone, meaning it as a cute pet name. Starr found it annoying and objectifying, and called him "Marshmallow" in response. He got the message and knocked it off. (In general, comparing someone's skintone to food is a no-no, as it's often used in a fetishistic context.)
    • Subverted by Hailey. At first, her racist comments come off as a privileged white girl who doesn't know any better, but it becomes clear that she doesn't want to know any better. She gets extremely defensive whenever she's called out on being racist, insisting she's "just joking" and those offended are being too sensitive, and refuses to change.
  • Internal Reveal: One by one, Starr's friends at Williamson finally find out she was the witness in Khalil's death, with varying reactions.
  • It's All About Me: Hailey, Hailey, Hailey! The most glaring example is how she responds to Starr calling her out for a racist joke... by getting extremely offended that Starr would call her racist. Even when Starr becomes increasingly upset, she still acts like she was the one who was wronged.
  • Freudian Excuse Is No Excuse: King got his name from his parents, both King Lords themselves. At one point, Starr reflects on the fact that he was basically put in gang colors from the day he was born. At no point does this excuse the things he did, in-universe and out.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Maverick. Hotheaded, a former criminal, and sometimes judgmental, but devoted father and husband who's willing to lay his life on the line to do what's right.
    • Also, Kenya. She's bitchy and petty at times, but it's clear she adores Seven, and she does care for Starr. She's also a bit nicer towards Starr once she stands up for Khalil.
    • DeVante is a rude drug dealer, but he's mostly a scared kid, and he mellows out significantly when Maverick and Carlos start helping him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Hailey doesn't see the error of her ways and become a better person, and Starr ends the friendship. Sometimes, people are bigots and you just have to walk away.
  • Karma Houdini: While King and Hailey both get their just desserts in the end, One-Fifteen walks away scot-free. Starr is utterly devastated by this. Anyone who's familiar with the police shootings that inspired the novel could probably see it coming, as it happens so often in real life, but it's still hard to swallow.
  • Killer Cop: One-Fifteen, of course. Inspired by many, many cases of Truth in Television.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Discussed. Starr, Seven, DeVante, and Kenya all agree that this trope is "white people shit." Chris agrees it's stupid, but protests that it only happens in horror movies. It comes up again when Seven's car runs out of gas. Chris suggests three people leave to find a gas station while the other two stay with the car, before stopping mid sentence.
  • Lovable Rogue:
    • DeVante is a drug dealer and a gang member, but he's sympathetic, funny, and plucky enough that it's hard not to like him. He genuinely wants out of the criminal lifestyle, which helps.
    • Subverted by King. He seems pretty amiable at first, despite being a drug lord, but his true colors slowly get revealed throughout the novel. By the end, he's not lovable at all.
  • Love at First Sight: Maverick fell hard for Lisa the first time he saw her. Lisa, for her part, thought Mav made an idiot of himself.
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: Chris and Starr aren't anywhere near marriage yet, but Starr notices that a lot of their classmates seem to think Chris shouldn't be dating her. She also hides the relationship from her father (while her mother and other relatives know and approve since Chris is a Nice Guy), since Maverick has spoken negatively about mixed relationships in the past. Eventually, Maverick finds out when Chris stops by to see Starr, is shocked to hear about it, and gives Chris somewhat cold treatment for a while, but gradually begins to accept Starr's relationship. By the end of the story, he realizes that Chris is a good guy, and starts to warm up to him.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Starr was so named because she was a bit of brightness in a very dark period of Maverick's life.
    • Seven, meanwhile, got his name because seven is a lucky number.
    • "Khalil" means "friend."
    • "Maverick" means "independent" or "nonconformist."
    • Brickz was named such because according to Maverick "he's always been as heavy as some bricks".
    • Starr's narration remarks whoever named him pretty much destined "King" to end up in the King Lords gang.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: After feeling like they failed Khalil, Maverick and Uncle Carlos rescue young DeVante when he steals money from King and runs away from the gang life.
  • N-Word Privileges: The word and all its forms are said quite frequently, but only by the black characters. At one point, Starr notes that Chris, while singing along to "Fuck tha Police," goes silent every time the n-word is said. "As he should."
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Averted. Those that knew Khalil in life are conscious of his flaws, and discuss them extensively, though they all still love and miss him. The media, meanwhile, paints him as a threat and a gangbanger, despite evidence to the contrary. Hailey also has no qualms about insulting him, even though she never even met him, because he was a drug dealer. This gets her beaten up.
  • Nice Guy:
    • Chris. He adores Starr, and when he finally finds out the full truth about the shooting and Starr's role in it, he's supportive, even accompanying Starr and the others to the violent protest despite knowing he'll stand out as a white guy and how dangerous it'll be.
    • Maya is nice, trying to keep her friendship group together no matter what, to the point of being a pushover. She grows a spine.
    • Lisa is a devoted mother and is kind and supportive throughout.
    • Starr, though she does not suffer fools gladly, is a kindhearted and loving girl.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Starr eventually gives one to Hailey (as Seven gives one to Hailey's brother) when Hailey says that Khalil deserved to have been gunned down for being a drug dealer.
  • No Sympathy: Once she's backed into a corner over her racist comments by Maya and Starr, Hailey lashes out hard over Khalil's death, saying that as a drug-dealer and gangbanger he would have died young anyway, and that One-Fifteen simply put an end to him before he could hurt anyone else. Starr responds by punching her in the face. Later, she apologises... but it's an apology for Starr being upset with her, not for anything she said about Khalil or her own racism, which she's still refusing to acknowledge.
  • Not Afraid of You Anymore: The entire neighborhood pulls this on King at the end. After Maverick openly names King as a criminal, the other residents of the neighborhood follow, confirming Maverick's story.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: Lisa's brother and mother don't really get along with Maverick, he feels the same way. The former is treated with more seriousness and the two men do act civilly towards one another while the latter is treated with comedy as Starr's grandmother complains about BOTH Maverick and her daughter-in-law Lisa.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Khalil's mother has to deal with her son getting killed and to top it off, his grandmother with cancer lost her grandson.
  • Papa Wolf:
    • Maverick looks out for Starr, Seven, and DeVante.
    • Uncle Carlos took care of Starr when Maverick ended up in jail. He punches Officer Cruise on learning that the latter threatened his niece, which gets him put on paid leave.
  • Pink Is Feminine: Iesha appears at Seven's graduation/birthday party in a pink car and with pink (skimpy) clothing.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Starr gives one to One-Fifteen during her TV interview, though he's not actually present, calling him a cowardly racist that deserves to rot in jail for what he did.
    • After one snide remark too many, Uncle Carlos turns on Maverick, reminding him that he was the one who helped raise Starr from the age of three to six, while Maverick was doing time in prison to support King instead. It humbles Maverick enough that the two of them sit down and work out their differences afterwards.
    • At the novel's climax, Starr gives one to the entire freaking police force, calling them out on their institutional racism and informing them that, until things change, people won't quiet down.
    • Seven gives an utterly deserved one to Iesha after she pushes his buttons one too many times.
  • Refusal of the Call: There's a lot of reasons Starr just wants to move on with her life after watching Khalil get shot: she wants to keep the two halves of her life separate, she doesn't want Chris to find out, it was traumatic. The end result, however, is that One-Fifteen's father gets in front of a camera first, and the media focuses on Khalil's past as a drug-dealer since no-one's around to speak up for him.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Name-dropped. Starr notes that she can have "attitude" at Williamson, "but not too much attitude", or she'll be pigeon-holed as the Sassy Black Girl.
  • Scholarship Student: Starr and Seven are the two poorest kids we see at Williamson.
  • Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Mr. Lewis lacks a filter and can be quite demanding. Also, Starr's grandmother is very opinionated and is known to curse a lot, even in front of her young grandchildren.
  • Sex for Solace: Starr finally starts to initiate sex with Chris the day the grand jury makes their decision. However, Chris realises what's going on, refuses, and Starr breaks down crying.
  • Shoot Him! He Has a... Wallet!: Khalil is shot for picking up a hairbrush from inside of his car. However, it's made clear he almost certainly wouldn't have been shot if he wasn't also black or young.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Starr's favorite show is The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In fact, she met Chris when he told her the first Aunt Viv was the best Aunt Viv, and the theme tune became their song. Given that Starr was put into an upper-class high school after witnessing a friend getting shot, she can relate to Will's situation.
    • As a child, she was also a fan of Harry Potter. For his part, Maverick maintains that the whole thing is an allegory for gang violence.
    • Maya is a fan of Adventure Time, and has a Finn plushie in her room.
    • Starr sarcastically comments that De Vante's become cooler than Spider-Man to Sekani.
    • Bob's Burgers is briefly seen on a TV.
  • Starbucks Skin Scale: Discussed in-universe where an annoyed Starr once called her boyfriend Chris "Marshmallow" after he called her "Caramel".
  • The Stool Pigeon: Discussed throughout. No one wants to snitch on King — as Starr puts it, snitches don't get stitches, snitches get graves. However, Mr. Lewis openly badmouths him on TV, pointing out how awful King's presence is for the neighborhood, and basically daring King to come and get him. And oh, does King try. Starr dry snitches on him, during her TV interview. She doesn't name names, but everyone knows damn well who she means. Finally, Maverick does too, and is followed by the rest of the neighborhood, when King goes too far.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Starr's family is a minor example. It's not too hard to remember, but Starr outright admits it can be confusing to the uninitiated. Basically — Starr and Sekani are the children of Lisa and Mav. Kenya is the daughter of Iesha and King (Kenya also has younger siblings who are Iesha's, but it's never specified if they're King's). Seven is the result of a one night stand between Iesha and Mav, making him Kenya, Starr, and Sekani's half-brother (this has the strange side effect of having Kenya and Starr being kind of related, but not really). In addition, Lisa, Seven's stepmother, essentially raised him as her own, and he considers her to be more his mother than Iesha.
  • Teen Pregnancy: Lisa had Starr while she was a senior in high school.
  • Their First Time: Subverted. It looks like this will happen between Chris and Starr... but Chris stops it, because Starr is traumatized, stressed, and in the worst emotional state of her life, and he recognizes that it shouldn't happen when she's in such a state. The encounter ends with them chastely snuggling instead.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: Discussed before the events of the novel, Mav cheated on Lisa after a fight and wound up impregnating Iesha. Starr says to Lisa that, if it were her, she would have considered that act the point of no return and cut ties with Mav there and then. In response, her mom reminds her that the Horizon is subjective, citing the way she forgave her own mother for her verbal abuse and locking her out of the house when drunk. She argues that only you can decide if the gravity of the bad outweighs all the good in the relationship, and if it ever does, cut ties.
  • Token Minority: Starr and Maya are this to Williamson, Starr being black and Maya being Asian.
  • Token Minority Couple: The only black student at Williamson who's not related to Starr is a guy called Ryan. Both are dating other people. Starr points out that a lot of people expect them to date, though, as part of some "Noah's Ark type shit."
  • Token White: Chris and Hailey are the only major white characters in the book — even the officer that killed Khalil is mostly a background figure. By the end, Chris is this to Starr's Garden group of friends, since she's cut ties with Hailey.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: During the climax of the film. While Mav and King are in a Mexican Standoff, Sekani pulls out a gun and aims it at King to protect his father. As Starr notes, Sekani's been given hate and it's about to fuck everybody.
  • True Companions:
    • Starr with Khalil and Natasha, who used to call themselves "tighter than the inside of Voldemort's nose. Sadly, Starr outlives both at only 16 years old.
    • Starr also considers herself this with Maya and Hailey, to an extent. It doesn't last with Hailey.
  • Villain Has a Point: King, like Starr, argues that in cases like Khalil's, the media focuses more on the victim and their past than than they do the cop's, in an attempt to blame the victim for their own death. However, King's chief concern is keeping the spotlight off his drugs racket, rather than any sentiment towards Khalil.
  • Waif-Fu: Starr is an average teenage girl and a Nice Girl at that, but the cathartic beatdown she gives Hailey after a whole narrative of her saying racist and insensitive stuff to Starr and Maya reveals how tough she really is, lampshaded by a friend of Maverick's.
    Damn little mama, you got some hands.
  • We Used to Be Friends: King and Mav used to be pretty close friends, but not so much since Mav left the criminal lifestyle. They still seem to be on decent terms, though. Until King tries to murder DeVante, all but puts a hit out on Starr, and burns Maverick's store down, anyway.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Kenya calls Starr out for not speaking out about Khalil's death more publicly. Starr agrees with her, but it's clear that it's a complicated situation — people who speak out against police brutality often get death threats, and Starr is sixteen.
    • Mr Lewis calls Maverick out for still being on good terms with King, despite knowing how brutal the gangster is, and teaching his children to stay out of gangs' business and not snitch. While breaking these rules in a gang-run neighborhood is still a dangerous game to play, it's a factor in Mav deciding to snitch on King at the end.
  • White Man's Burden: Starr, in her internal monologue, accuses One-Fifteen of having this mindset, feeling that he had to intervene in order to "clean up" her black neighborhood. In the book itself, it's an Inverted Trope if anything: Chris mostly exists in order to further Starr's journey, including coming with her to the protests in Garden Heights.
  • The Whitest Black Guy:
    • Starr and her siblings struggle with accusations of this, since they attend a mostly-white prep school. Starr makes a conscious effort to avoid seeming "ghetto" when she's around white people, resulting in her "acting white."
    • Maverick accuses Carlos of this, due to being a cop and living out in the suburbs. He gets over it, and realizes that this kind of thinking does more harm than good.
    • Humorously inverted with Chris, who's white and rich, but has what Starr and the others consider to be a "black" sense of style and taste in entertainment. In one scene, Starr, Seven, Kenya, and DeVante all teasingly claim Chris is "really" black, though he does say something from time to time that makes his background clear (see Let's Split Up, Gang! for the most obvious case of this).
    DeVante: (to Chris) You're not white. You're just light-skinned.
    Starr: That's what I've been saying!
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: In-universe, Maverick never understood why Harry Potter didn't just "shoot that nigga Voldemort."
    • King would also have successfully killed DeVante had he not stopped to throw a party after mugging him and locking him in his house. However, he didn't want to do it in broad daylight, and was waiting for the sun to set.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Inverted. Seven much prefers Lisa to his biological mother, Iesha, and doesn't correct people when they assume Lisa's his mother. Lisa, for her part, considers Seven to be her son, regardless of how he came about.
  • With Friends Like These...: Hailey is spoiled, self-absorbed, and more than a little racist, though even she doesn't seem to realize it. Starr and Maya cut her off at the end.
  • Women Are Wiser: Lisa and Maverick are both good people and good parents, but Lisa's considerably more down-to-earth and reasonable.
  • You Are a Credit to Your Race: A strictly Played for Laughs example, as Starr and her Garden friends all teasingly tell Chris he's not so bad... for a white guy. Chris is flustered, but can't help but laugh at their jokes.
  • You Are Number 6: Seven. He was named that because seven is a lucky number.