Chapter Twenty-Six draws some distinct parallels to Chapter Three that highlight how Starr and other characters have grown throughout the novel to create a stronger family and community. In Chapter Three, Starr feels too paralyzed to speak for Khalil and she worries her fear disappoints Maverick. Now, Starr’s voice has carried so far that she appears on every news channel, and Maverick addresses her as “Li’l Black Panther,” expressing pride in seeing Starr continue the work of his heroes. Whereas Maverick and Lisa considered Sekani too young to even know about Starr’s ordeal, Sekani now not only knows about the store’s destruction, but maturely volunteers everyone to support Maverick. Mr. Lewis once accused Maverick of being a bad influence on the neighborhood, but now sees Maverick as a force for good because Maverick has become a community leader who actively fights against gang violence. These changes show how the events of The Hate U Give made the Carter family stronger individuals who support each other to be stronger together.
Deleting Hailey’s number signifies that Starr will no longer tone herself down to make her white classmates comfortable. Hailey wants their friendship back, but in their old relationship Hailey controlled the narrative of who Starr was, and Starr played a sidekick role. A return to their former friendship would therefore involve Starr ignoring all the hurt Hailey has caused over the course of the novel. Hailey’s apology expresses a desire to erase what happened instead of taking responsibility for her hurtful words and actions. Starr realizes that their friendship has no way forward because she does not want to shrink back into the old pattern. She invokes Lisa’s framework of weighing a person’s mistakes against her love for them, and finds Hailey lacking because Hailey’s actions have continuously not shown any care for Starr’s feelings.
In stark contrast to Hailey’s selfish apology, Starr’s apology to Kenya reaffirms their friendship because she takes responsibility for hurting Kenya and establishes a path forward for them. Starr can apologize to Kenya because she both understands that Kenya’s accusation that Starr was ashamed of Garden Heights was true, and that she can only heal if she owns up to her feelings and actions. By focusing on Kenya rather than herself, Starr recognizes that part of why Kenya claimed Seven was because of how Starr hurt Kenya with her shame. Furthermore, Starr realizes that her shame in Garden Heights also caused Kenya to feel shame over her difficult family life. When she reassures Kenya that Seven loves her, Lyric, and Iesha for themselves and not out of obligation, Starr works to break Kenya’s shame. Therefore, by bringing this shame out in the open, the two girls can reconcile and heal.
Starr’s bittersweet farewell to the reader transcends the boundaries of the novel and presents a call to action. Thomas lists the names of the real black men and women killed by law enforcement to remind us that while Khalil is fictional, his story has a lot in common with very real murders. By connecting those victims to Khalil, Starr challenges the reader to see the humanity in the victims and the injustice in their stories. She emphasizes that she will never forget Khalil or what happened to him, which suggests that readers, too, should not forget the names of the victims of police violence. Starr passes the torch to the reader by declaring that the only way things will change is if people still fight. If readers want police violence to end and the cycle of Thug Life to break, they must follow Starr’s lead and speak out for justice.