The book The Hate U Give—which was Thomas’ literary debut—won the $5,000 Waterstones children’s book prize in London on March 22, the news outlet writes. The novel chronicles the journey of a teenager named Starr who struggles with finding a balance between growing up in an impoverished neighborhood and attending a primarily white affluent high school. In the book, Starr also has to come to terms with the loss of one of her close friends who was fatally shot by a police officer.
The Hate U Give—a title that was derived from a Tupac lyric—has sparked conversation about racism, police brutality, and other societal issues amongst a younger audience. Thomas, who is a Jackson, Mississippi native, says that her own experiences and the lack of racial representation in children’s literature inspired her to write the novel. “It was so hard growing up to find any books about young black girls. Hopefully, the novel will help people understand why Black lives matter,” she told iNews.
James Daunt the managing director of Waterstones told the Guardian that the book encompasses a message that people of all ages should read. “There is no upper age limit to being stunned by beautiful writing of this visceral power,” said Daunt. “It is an extraordinary achievement, and it triumphs in a year of wonderful quality and creativity in children’s publishing.”