Bookworms either love or hate adaptations of their favorite movies—there is no in-between, and I’m no different. When a beloved book heads for the big screen, I’m hit with mix of excitement and anxiety, as if I’m sitting under the Sorting Hat, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I’ve seen books that I love transformed in unrecognizable ways and I’ve seen ones that made me sigh with relief but broke no new ground. And then, every once in a while, an adaptation comes along that truly blows me away. I recently had the pleasure of attending a screening for The Hate U Give, the adaptation of Angie Thomas’ incredible book of the same name. My hopes were high, and the film still exceeded them. Here’s a look at why I think The Hate U Give succeeded as an adaptation.
For many readers, casting can make or break an adaptation. It can feel jarring when the character you imagined in your head looks different on screen. But I’m ecstatic to say that the cast of The Hate U Give delivers in every way possible. They all deserve praise, but I want to signal out the two that really stood out to me: Amandla Stenberg shines as Starr Carter, and Russell Hornsby’s Maverick is magnificent. Hornsby brings Maverick’s fierce protectiveness of his family and loyalty to his neighborhood to life on screen, while Stenberg captures all of Starr’s strength, fear, grief, anger, and vulnerabilities. She’s instantly recognizable as the character readers first met and loved in the novel, and they’ll continue to root for her every step of the way.
In the novel, Starr’s narration guides readers through her life. While she struggles to balance Starr Version 1 and 2, readers are given Starr as she truly is. The movie uses a few different techniques to show us Starr’s point of view, such as slow motion as she sees Khalil for the first time, but it’s Starr’s occasional voiceover that really captures the intimate and honest voice that readers loved in the book.
The fashion and music
Setting the stage is about so much more than just location, and there were two important things that Starr’s world needed to be truly hers: Jordans and Tupac. Starr is a sneakerhead through and through, and her Jordans appear in all their glory in the adaptation. Similarly, the soundtrack takes its cues from the book, featuring Tupac as well as artists like Kendrick Lamar and Travis Scott, and up-and-coming rappers. Bustle called the soundtrack “a veritable lesson in hip hop history,” taking listeners from the past to the present to the future—and we couldn’t agree more.
The added magic
In the book, Starr and Khalil reminisce about their days as the Hood Trio—running around with their childhood friend Natasha, pretending to be Harry, Ron, and Hermione. I won’t spoil the magic, but this small moment from the book takes on emotional weight at key moments in the movie. It expands on the source material in a genuine way, as if it was meant to be there all along—definitely a mark of a great addition in an adaptation.
For some readers, a faithful adaptation means that every page of the book appears on screen unchanged. But as any writer whose work has been adapted will tell you, books don’t always translate perfectly. To me, the most important thing is capturing the spirit of the book and remaining faithful to that, and this is where The Hate U Give truly shines as a movie. It’s clear that everyone involved (from the director to the screenwriter to the cast) understood the book and its significance. They found that perfect blend of humor and heart that the novel does so well, sharing a powerful message without ever losing how personal this story truly is.
The Hate U Give is one of the best adaptations I’ve seen in a long time, serving up a passionate and timely narrative to both bookworms and filmgoers. If you haven’t made your plans to see it yet, what are you waiting for?