Genre: Contemporary, YA
Series: None (but I would love a sequel, pretty please)
Rating: 5 STARS
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, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. 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 destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.
I am black. I know, you guys are just so completely shocked! It’s as if I don’t have a picture on my “About Me” page that has my face next to V.E. Schwab’s and clearly shows the color of my skin (now I know you guys are going to go and probably look at my “About Me” page)! But, clearly, that’s not the point. Starr and I live different lives as black girls, but, she’s definitely probably one of the most relatable protagonists I’ve ever read about. She’s definitely up there with Fangirl‘s Cath and Unwind‘s Lev.
I live in the suburbs. Starr lives in the projects. I don’t in any way suffer from the effects of gang wars because I live in a nice neighborhood over in North Carolina. The closest thing to fear I’ve felt in my neighborhood is when I jump because someone is setting off fireworks and it’s not July 4 (this happens often). I don’t really have any friends that are black, I don’t listen to rap, I’ve never watched Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in my entire life, and any black person could probably be ashamed if they found out I didn’t understand any of their slang. I’ve lived in a nice suburban place since I was born, and I’ll probably go on to live in nice places (unless my life takes a horribly dark turn, which I hope it doesn’t). I don’t ever feel like I’m hiding two parts of myself, because I’m just introverted, and…that’s it. That’s all. There are lots of differences between us, obviously.
But seeing that Starr went to a private school was what hit home for me. I go to a private school as well, and it also happens to be Christian, because my entire family is, and I am as well (but, like, everything else about me is liberal, so there’s that). Obviously, there are only eight to ten other black kids in grade out of the 120+. Out of the entire school, there’s probably still a lower number than white kids that attend. It can sometimes be interesting, going to school where some of the white boys listen to rap more than I ever will in my entire lifetime. And it can also be highly annoying, because surprise, surprise, some of those same Christian white boys supported Donald Trump and his racist remarks (and his misogynistic comments. And now he’s transphobic. And he’s Islamophobic. And we’re all going to be here all day if I continue). So, imagine my fury at the fact that I’m sure if I asked these people to their face if they thought Donald Trump was racist, they’d probably say no.
It’s frustrating. It really is. And the fact that Starr feels like such a real, raw character is what makes it so perfect. Her parents are protective and care about her, much like mine are (and she gets annoyed at them, much like I do) and she swears a lot in her head, much like I do when I get rant-y and angry! I’m not the only one who does that! It makes me so happy! And she feels like she has to be this whole different person because she doesn’t want to be the Angry Black Girl, and, yep, I feel for the fact of feeling like I have to keep my mouth shut even though I want to scream, and that’s part “I don’t want to become a stereotype” and part “I am an introvert, hear me keep quiet.”
Also, this book gave me all the feelings. ALL OF THEM. The entire way the case is handled, the entire way the actual shooting is handled feels so very, very real. You will be angry. You will be frustrated. And if you’re not, you probably don’t care or you’re just emotionless or whatever. But nothing made me want to throw my phone against the wall (I was reading this as an e-book) then that interview with the cop’s dad, where it makes out Khalil and Starr to be these teenage thugs who made the cop uncomfortable and in danger. WHEN THAT IS NOT TRUE. NONE OF IT IS TRUE. And then we have Hailey over here, with her annoying ways, saying the most racist things, and then being angry because Starr is offended by said racist things. #EveryRacistEver
But then we have Chris, Starr’s boyfriend, and their relationship is so cute, okay? Chris is white, and he doesn’t want Starr to be this different person in front of him, and, yes, he might say some ignorant things that will make you face-palm – especially if you’re black – but I think what I loved is the fact that Starr always set him straight, and he tried as hard as he could to understand. And he’s just a nice guy in general, and he’s such a dork who’s always there for Starr whenever she needs him. Chris is precious; where can I buy one?
I felt like the case was realistically handled, and I loved how this book gave this sort of POV of black people. We get a look into protests and riots and having to live in a neighborhood that puts a curfew on the people living there, much like what happened in Ferguson a couple years ago. They are angry and they are frustrated and they want justice, and those emotions bleed through the pages, and that’s what makes this book so amazing. That it manages to play with your emotions, by not only being serious, but also balancing those moments with really funny ones. We usually only get to see this type of stuff on TV, so it feels far away unless you’re actually there and living through it, and I liked how Thomas managed to make the feelings the protestors and Black Lives Matter advocates feel going through this conflict. It just makes it that much more powerful and personal.
We have supportive parents that are ACTUALLY THERE and ACTUALLY SUPPORTIVE and feel real. We have a beautiful representation of family and being black from #ownvoices. We have an adorable romance that doesn’t take center stage. We have wonderful female friendships. We have a raw representation of racism that will probably make you angry and uncomfortable, and THAT’S THE POINT. We have a book that is literally so amazing and perfect and PLEASE READ IT I BEG YOU.
And if you’re not pushed to read this book after this review, then, I don’t know how I can help you. You must pick this book up. You must.
(Hopefully, I’ll be able to buy this in hardcover since I had to borrow this via Overdrive, and the hardcover looks so gorgeous, but I don’t have any money to buy it; I am just a poor, jobless teenage bookworm. I’M SUFFERING.)
Have you read this yet? Why haven’t you read this yet? YOU MUST!
(And if you have, what did you think about it?)