I was so happy when the author, Stephen Clark, approached me and offered to send me a copy of his book, Hands Up, for me to read and provide an honest review. I also felt great responsibility, because this books speaks about some very important, very relevant, and very, unfortunately, sad topics that are currently happening in the world.
Police officer Ryan Quinn, raised in a family of cops, shoots an unarmed black male. His career and his freedom are now in jeopardy, as he embarks on a journey for redemption.
Jade Wakefield is a student, whose brother just got shot by the police. And she is determined to find the cop who did this and get their revenge.
Kelly Randolph abandoned his family ten years ago. But when his son’s death brings him home, he seeks forgiveness and wants to make amends. But the dark past he thought he left behind for good is still here to haunt him.
Hands Up is a very difficult read for me to write a review for. Throughout the book, we follow these three people’s perspectives. Ryan’s point of view is in first person, while Jade and Kelly’s perspectives are in third. This took me a while to get adjusted to, and it doesn’t affect the story much, apart from the fact that it caught my curiosity. I wonder what the author’s intention was behind this choice.
Hands Up is a fast-paced read. As soon as I dived into it, it pulled me into the story, and I finished it in no time. The chapters swapped between the characters quite seamlessly, which was quite enjoyable. And I have to admit, I did enjoy it, and I do recommend it for you to pick it up. It has some major issues that bothered me, which I will speak about further below, but ultimately, I think that the intention of this book was on point, and for that sole purpose it needs to go out in the world and raise awareness.
I felt like the book’s intentions and the idea behind the police brutality and Black Lives Matter movement were great. We need more books that will speak up on these subjects. This year has been extremely important for so many black people. And people are slowly starting to educate themselves, and becoming more aware of the racism and discrimination happening around us every single day. It is far from over, but people are starting to speak up, and things are slowly beginning to shift. However, I think that it was poorly executed. The book is written in such a way that it didn’t provoke feelings in me. Feelings I was hoping it would. It felt as if I was reading a news report, rather than a story that affects people’s lives, feelings and thoughts.
The other issue I had were the characters.
All the characters were stereotypical. And I hoped that at least, maybe they would change throughout the story, throughout their experiences. Work on their issues and prejudices, and overcome it, but they didn’t.
The cop is white and he is the killer. The dad is black and a gang member who left his family. The daughter is a girl with no future, relying on violence. And this made me angry, because I know many black fathers who are amazing and don’t abandon their families. And many bright young black women who are doing extremely well in life and in their studies. Many white people that are not killers, and many white people that are bullies.
Ever since I was little, I was taught to see people for good and bad. That no colour, no race, no religion and no nationality should define people’s characters. And I would have let this pass, if people changed throughout the book. But they didn’t. The white cop tried to find redemption, but ended up failing in the end. The black dad returned to his bad past again. The daughter relied on violence and revenge yet again. The only character that I had respect for was Regina, the victim’s mother. She felt the most realistic of them all, and I could connect with her as a character and feel her pain. I wish we had more scenes with her. I believe that her point of view would have been quite beneficial to the story.
Another issue I had was a certain romantic relationship that developed throughout the book.
SPOILER ALERT IN THE NEXT PARAGRAPH:
The victim’s sister fell in love with the cop. And this troubled me, for many reasons. She was actively seeking revenge for her brother’s death. Then she found out who he was. And two nights later, they were in love. I think that such relationship can’t develop so fast in normal circumstances. I won’t even get into how impossible it would be in these circumstances. It was too fast and too unrealistic for me.
That is why I am so troubled with my review of Hands Up. For me, it wasn’t the typical book I’d pick up and enjoy. It had many issues. But it was very important. The Black Lives Matter movement is so damn important. Which is why I urge you to pick this book up and give it a chance. The issues that it speaks of are around us, and awareness should be raised.