Starr Carter is the novel's protagonist, a sixteen-year-old African-American living in the mostly poor and black neighborhood of Garden Heights while attending the upscale, largely-white private school Williamson Prep. When she was ten, Starr saw her friend Natasha killed in a drive-by shooting; the trauma of this experience is repeated at the beginning of the novel when Starr witnesses the death of her friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. The novel follows Starr as she attempts to navigate the two worlds of Garden Heights and Williamson Prep while simultaneously dealing with grief over Khalil's death and her forays into activism in response to the unjust shooting.
Maverick "Big Mav" Carter
Maverick, Starr's father, owns and operates a grocery store in Garden Heights and is a firm believer in the tenets of Black Power espoused by Huey Newton. A former gangbanger, Maverick spent three years in prison before fatherhood inspired him to get out of the gang system. He supports Starr throughout the novel, inspiring her to not be silent in the face of injustice. Although he feuds with his brother-in-law and struggles to accept Starr's white boyfriend, by the end of the book Maverick makes peace with those who care about Starr.
Lisa, Starr's mother, is an invaluable source of support and care for her daughter throughout the novel. She encourages Starr to do as much as she is comfortable with in terms of activism and speaking out. Lisa worries for the safety of her family and convinces Maverick that their family should move out of the Garden Heights neighborhood. At the beginning of the book, she works as a nurse in a Garden Heights clinic, but she later secures a higher-paying job in a different hospital which makes the family's move financially feasible.
Seven is Starr's half-brother; Maverick is Seven's father, and Iesha, the gangbanger King's girlfriend, is his mother. Seven has a close relationship with Starr—they play basketball together every month, he drives her home from school every day—and he supports his sister during the difficult grieving period following Khalil's death. He's eighteen, and is accepted to many colleges, but doesn't want to leave Garden Heights because he feels the need to protect Iesha and his sisters from King's physical abuse. Ultimately, Maverick convinces Seven to pursue the opportunities open to him and attend a college outside of the city.
Sekani is Starr's younger brother, who also attends Williamson Prep. At first, Starr's parents don't tell Sekani that Starr witnessed Khalil's death, but eventually tell him as Starr gets more involved with efforts to protest the shooting. Starr and Sekani frequently have good-natured fights and bicker with each other.
Chris is Starr's boyfriend. He shares Starr's love for Jordan sneakers and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. However, he's also rich and white; Starr feels that this creates distance between them, while Chris insists that Starr let him into the side of her life she usually tries to hide from her Williamson friends. Although Maverick doesn't accept Chris at first, the two grow closer throughout the novel.
Hailey is one of Starr's friends at Williamson Prep. At the beginning of the novel, their friendship is strained because Hailey unfollowed Starr's Tumblr account after Starr posted a picture of Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old black boy murdered for whistling at a white woman. Hailey doesn't redeem herself throughout the novel, either; she insinuates that Khalil is better off dead because he sold drugs, and she repeatedly makes racist comments to Starr while denying that she herself is a racist. The tension between the two friends builds until they get into a physical altercation at school. At the end of the book, Starr decides to cut Hailey out of her life, since the negative aspects of the friendship outweigh the positive.
Maya is one of Starr's closest friends at Williamson. Like Starr, Maya plays for the school's basketball team. She also lives on Carlos's street. Maya is Asian-American, and when Hailey makes racist comments about Maya's ethnicity, Maya and Starr agree to make a "minority alliance" and refuse to allow Hailey to make prejudiced remarks towards them.
Kenya is one of Starr's friends who lives in Garden Heights. She and Starr share a brother, since Maverick is Seven's father and Iesha is the mother of both Kenya and Seven. Kenya has an outsized personality and isn't afraid to fight people, but she also calls Starr out for not speaking up for Khalil as she believes Khalil would have if their roles were reversed. In addition, Kenya has to deal with physical abuse from King.
King is the most notorious gangbanger in the neighborhood, a King Lord deeply involved in drug dealing and violent acts. When Maverick took a prison charge and saved King from getting locked up, King allowed Maverick to leave the King Lords. King is also abusive towards his girlfriend, Iesha, and to his kids, Kenya, Seven, and Lyric. The neighborhood ultimately turns on King, turning him in to the police after he sets fire to Maverick's store.
Iesha is King's girlfriend and the mother of Seven, Kenya, and Lyric. Although Seven and Iesha have a strained relationship because Seven believes that she doesn't reciprocate his love—she didn't even show up to his high school graduation—Iesha makes sacrifices for Seven as well. She is a point of contention in Maverick and Lisa's relationship, because Maverick conceived Seven with her after having a fight with Lisa.
DeVante is a teenager who lives in Garden Heights and ends up getting involved with the King Lords. He joins the gang and sells drugs in an attempt to find a kind of family and to make money to provide for his mother and brother. Fearing that he will end up dead or in prison, DeVante turns to Maverick for help in getting out of the King Lords. Maverick sends him to live at Carlos's house. At the end of the novel, DeVante agrees to turn witness against King to protect Iesha, Seven, Kenya, Lyric, and the Garden Heights community.
Khalil, Starr's best friend from childhood, is shot while unarmed by a police officer who had pulled him over for having a broken taillight. Although Khalil's death occurs in the first few pages of the novel, his presence reverberates throughout the novel. Khalil sold drugs because his mother, Brenda—who struggles with addiction—was in debt to King. King tried to persuade Khalil to join the King Lords, but Khalil refused.
Carlos, who is Lisa's brother, serves as a police officer in the same force with the officer who shot Khalil. When Maverick was in prison—from when Starr was three years old until she was six—Carlos served as a father figure to Starr. This creates tension between him and Maverick; they both have Starr's best interests at heart. Carlos is put on leave from the police force after he punches the officer who shot Khalil. He lives in a suburb that is wealthier than Garden Heights.
The Hate U Give Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Hate U Give is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.