The Real Reason The Hate U Give Became A Banned Book

The "Harry Potter" series. "To Kill a Mockingbird." "The Color Purple." "The Catcher in the Rye." What do all of these classic books have in common?

These novels are all on the popular banned books list in the United States, according to CBS News.


Over recent years, the movement to ban books has become more and more widespread across America, with groups in chapters across the country amassing members to tackle literature that they feel should not be exposed to children. In fact, PEN America reported that as of 2022, there were nearly 1,600 books that were on this disavowed list. People adamant about these changes consisted mostly of community parents and residents who advocated for at least 50% of the nation's books that were banned during the 2021 to 2022 school year. 

This data is staggering, but what might be even more so is the time in which this controversial topic is occurring. Data shows that children's literacy levels have gotten dramatically worse since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (via The New York Times). That's why it's vital that children learn to develop a love for (or at least a fundamental knowledge of) reading. One young adult favorite, "The Hate U Give" by Angie Thomas, is one of those books that is doing just that. Unfortunately, the data and expert interviews reveal why it's one of the most likely books to be banned.


The Hate U Give has a Black protagonist, explores themes like racism and police violence

When Angie Thomas' "The Hate U Give" was published in February 2017, it debuted as No. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list (via The Guardian). The young-adult novel tackles two relevant American topics: being Black in America and being traumatically impacted by police brutality. In 2018, a film adaptation of the book starring Amandla Stenberg came out.


The book revolves around Starr, a teenager who attends an elite private school miles outside of her predominantly Black neighborhood. Much of the book deals with the death of one of her friends who is murdered by a police officer after the two of them get pulled over after a high school party.

According to the data by PEN America, of the accounted-for titles on the banned books list, 40% have protagonists or characters who are BIPOC. And in the case of "The Hate U Give," mostly all of the characters, even secondary ones, are Black.

PEN America data also reveals that 21% of banned titles tackle subject matter such as racism, which is one of the main themes of Thomas' debut novel.

While parents and others who advocate for certain literature to not be in the hands of children say the novel is on the list for other reasons, but Thomas doesn't buy it.


Author Angie Thomas denies curse words are the reason The Hate U Give has been banned

"The Hate U Give" explores themes of police violence, being Black in America, code-switching, and more, but in schools where the young adult novel is banned, those who had a hand in the decision cite that it's because of swear words.


Earlier this year, board members of an Illinois school district banned the novel due to "inappropriate" language (via ABC News affiliate WQAD). However, author Angie Thomas, who weaves Black Lives Matter rhetoric in the book, had other thoughts on why her novel is seen as controversial. 

In February, Thomas appeared on "The Daily Show" where host Trevor Noah asked about how she was handling the backlash despite the critical acclaim the book has received. 

"I knew that was a cop-out," Thomas said. "There are exactly 89 instances of the F-word in 'The Hate U Give' ... But last year alone, over 800 people lost their lives at the hands of police brutality. That number is far scarier. So when you're telling me it's the language, no, that's not what it is. You don't want to talk about the topic."


So far, "The Hate U Give" has been taken out of English curriculums in states such as Texas, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania, among others.