Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
Like everyone is the YA book community I was dying to get my hands on this little gem. After reading it I can tell you that it had a profound impact on the way I think and the way I see the world. I thought it deserved better than the normal reviews I do. So instead I’m going to give you five reasons to pick this book, beyond just yelling at you about how it’s a diverse book.
1. Starr’s Parents
These parents, no joke, make my top 5 parents in a ya book list HANDS DOWN! Yes, Starr’s family is dysfunctional in that neither of her parents are perfect people who have lived perfect lives. They are REAL. But even better is that none of that past junk effects their ability to be good parents. They are there for Starr when she needs them the most. They give solid advice without being controlling or hoovering. They discipline her in a healthy manner when she does something wrong. They support Starr using her voice to stand against those that would oppress her. I loved seeing these parents and their relationship with their kids. They set a great example of what families should be like.
2. Starr’s Relationship with Chris
From the first page Starr is in a relationship with a white boy named Chris. What I loved about this was that a) the relationship was not the focus of the book. And b) this Starr knew when to call Chris on his shit and vice versa. They were good for each other in that they could be real with each other. He apologizes for his mistakes sincerely. And she forgives him because the good out weighs the bad. There was this one scene were Starr gets caught up in making out and wants to take things further (which had been a subject discussed earlier in the book.) Chris gently stops her saying that she doesn’t really want to have sex, she wants a distraction from the chaos around her. He’s a gentlemen! Loved seeing these two grow throughout this book.
3. Political Parallels
This is an obvious one. And for many it’s the reason they are picking up this book. This book is a reflection of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Previous to reading this book I had read some articles and seen a few videos. Nothing prepared me for being in Starr’s mind as she went through watching her best friend be shot by the police and the following repercussions. There were so many things that I had just never thought about before. I was enraged for Starr. My heart bleed for her. And mostly I just was torn at the thought that this is so unfair and yet so true to what is really happening in our world. Some of the minor oppression that white people do can totally silence a black person without the white ever realizing it. I’m guilty of some of these actions as well and it stung.
4. How Starr Handles Friendships
Starr has her Williamson friends and her Garden Heights friends. They do not intersect or crossover. That would be disaster. Through out this book Starr comes to the conclusion that is tired of having to live two different versions of herself and begins to break down the barriers. For some friends it’s easier than others. One of her closest friends has started normalizing certain racist behaviors and when said friend is called out she protests that she was joking and thus shouldn’t have to apologize. Starr is given the following great advice: “You gotta make a list of the bad and the good. If the good is bigger than the bad then you forgive. And if the bad is bigger then you have to learn to let them go.” This is such a hard concept for many teenagers to grasp and master. But Starr finally realizes that this certain friendship is hurting her more than building her up or making her happy. She lets the friendship go with grace and wisdom and without being rude. I just wish girls everywhere would be able to put this advice into action in their own lives.
5. Cultural Differences
I am not black. Nor have I ever been technically poor. Thomas’s writing truly thrusts you into this environment with excellent world building and characterization. It was totally new and interesting for me to be so immersed in this other way of life that I’ve never experienced. Thomas challenges stereotypes and confronts common misconceptions of the black community or “the hood.” Every page just slammed into me, leaving me with so much to process.
Obviously I gave this five stars. I love and cherish this book. I honestly think it’ll be the new To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s a book that should be required reading in school. And if you can get your hands on a copy I highly recommend that you do!
“At an early age I learned that people make mistakes, and you have to decide if their mistakes are bigger than your love for them.”
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Let me know if you guys have read this book and what you liked most about the experience. Have a blessed day!