Black Lives Matter novel wins Waterstones children's book of the year

The Hate U Give, by US author Angie Thomas, has been praised as an extraordinary achievement

A young adult novel inspired by both the Black Lives Matter movement and the rapper Tupac Shakur has won the Waterstones children’s book prize.

Angie Thomas’s debut The Hate U Give won the £5,000 prize, an accolade decided entirely by booksellers, at a ceremony in London on 22 March. Following Starr, a teenage girl split between the poverty of her childhood and the affluent high school she attends, The Hate U Give explores racism and the aftermath of police violence when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of an unarmed friend at the hands of an officer.

The novel takes its title from a quote from the late Shakur, who once said that Thug Life – the name of his group and only studio album – stood for the phrase: “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.”

In his review for the Guardian, author Alex Wheatle described the story as “beautiful”. “The Hate U Give is an outstanding debut novel and says more about the contemporary black experience in America than any book I have read for years, whether fiction or non-fiction,” he wrote.

Thomas, who was born and lives in Jackson, Mississippi, originally wrote the book as a short story but was inspired to expand it in 2015, by her anger at the deaths of several black Americans at the hands of police offices – which also sparked the Black Lives Matter movement, a campaign against violence and systemic racism towards black people.

In an interview with the Observer in 2017, Thomas said she felt it was important for young adult books to explore police violence. “So many teenagers are affected by these cases. It’s usually young, unarmed black people who lose their lives. Trayvon Martin was 17, Mike Brown was young, Tamir Rice was 12. And so young people are affected by it, possibly the most affected, because they’re seeing themselves,” she said.

Waterstones managing director James Daunt said The Hate U Give deserved a readership wider than only young adults. “Ours is a children’s prize, but there is no upper age limit to being stunned by beautiful writing of this visceral power. It is an extraordinary achievement, and it triumphs in a year of wonderful quality and creativity in children’s publishing,” he said.

Children’s book buyer Florentyna Martin called it “outstanding piece of writing and an incredibly gripping read”.

“This book has provided an important step-change in children’s publishing and our booksellers have championed this from the get-go. Angie Thomas has an incredible writing skill, impeccably adapting her tone of voice for each individual character and situation. She is a unique and powerful new voice for teenagers and adults and this book will undoubtedly be discussed for years to come,” she said.

Thomas, who is also shortlisted for the 2018 Carnegie medal, took out the top prize after winning the older fiction category earlier in the night, alongside Jessica Townsend’s fantasy novel Nevermoor, which won best younger fiction book, and Joe Todd-Stanton’s picture book The Secret of Black Rock, which won the illustrated book category.

Contributor

Sian Cain

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
‘Utterly joyful’ Look Up! wins Waterstones children's book of the year
Nathan Bryon and Dapo Adeola’s picture book about a science-mad young black girl trying to distract her brother from his phone takes £5,000 award

Alison Flood

29, Jul, 2020 @11:01 PM

Article image
Waterstones children's book prize goes to 'mesmerising' debut adventure story
Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s The Girl of Ink and Stars praised for ‘good, old-fashioned storytelling’ that recalls Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials

Danuta Kean

30, Mar, 2017 @7:00 PM

Article image
La Belle Sauvage chosen as Waterstones book of the year
Managing director James Daunt says staff showed overwhelming enthusiasm for Philip Pullman’s return after 17 years to the world of Northern Lights

Richard Lea

30, Nov, 2017 @6:01 AM

Article image
Sally Rooney's Normal People named Waterstones book of the year
Bookseller praises word-of-mouth hit as ‘cementing her reputation as the voice of her generation’

Sian Cain

29, Nov, 2018 @12:01 AM

Article image
The Essex Serpent beats Harry Potter to win Waterstones book of the year
Sarah Perry’s gothic ‘novel of rare intelligence’ receives lucrative honour ahead of the playscript for JK Rowling’s theatrical debut

01, Dec, 2016 @12:01 AM

Article image
Waterstones children's prize shortlists reflect readers' search for hope in anxious times
Book awards highlight titles providing optimistic perspectives on tough social problems that experts say are hitting youngsters’ mental health

Danuta Kean

08, Feb, 2017 @2:10 PM

Article image
Gripping refugee tale wins Waterstones children's book prize
Anti-trafficking campaigner Onjali Q Raúf was inspired to write adventure story The Boy at the Back of the Class by a Syrian mother and baby she encountered in a Calais camp

Alison Flood

22, Mar, 2019 @3:17 PM

Article image
Annabel Pitcher wins Waterstones children's book prize

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher wins the teen category and the overall prize in the awards judged by booksellers

Michelle Pauli

21, Mar, 2013 @8:00 PM

Article image
Waterstones prize winner Elle McNicoll: ‘I never saw autistic girls in books’
The author was repeatedly told that no one wanted to read fun books with disabled heroes. Now she has won the £5,000 Waterstones children’s book prize for her debut, A Kind of Spark

Alison Flood

01, Jul, 2021 @5:01 AM

Article image
Tribute to 'totally funky grandma' wins Waterstone's children's book prize

Sita Brahmachari's Artichoke Hearts, inspired by her '60s babe of a mother-in-law', takes £5,000 award

Michelle Pauli

10, Feb, 2011 @10:29 AM