Summary: 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.
All the Characters/Even the ones you hate. There are a lot of characters in this book. A LOT. So, I’m not going to do the breakdown like I normally do.
Starr Carter is the protagonist of the story, it’s told in her point of view and I think she’s a strong and realistic character. Throughout the story she doesn’t think she’ strong or brave but we have evidence of that throughout the story.
Her parents Maverick and Lisa Carter are people who have lived lives that allows them to have wisdom to understand the world around them and to have a view that they hope would help their family and by extension others. Maverick wants to give back to his community and Lisa wants to do that but make her family a priority (not that Mav doesn’t want that too, it just gets lost sometimes).
Seven is Starr’s big brother and you’ll learn about her connection to him and her friend Kenya, but I really liked him because he has his own struggles and demons, but he always tries to be there for his sister.
Chris is Starr’s boyfriend from her PWI private school and they’re sweet together, he really tries, and I give him props for that especially towards the end of the novel.
In her school, there is also Maya and Hailey who are Starr’s best friends and make your own conclusion, but I hated Hailey. I’m surprised Starr held out as long as she did lol. I liked Maya though.
Uncle Carlos is a big part of the story where he acted as a second father in ways to Starr. He is a cop so when we first meet him, I was a little skeptical at first but throughout the book he becomes a big ally and he has some awesome moments throughout the story. Great character.
Starr’s perspective. Being that the story is told in Starr’s perspective who was right there when Khalil was murdered, it allows the chance for the story to be told by someone with a firsthand account. She experiences everything and tells it in detail. She is a narrator who lives in the moment and tries to understand what’s happening in the now while also worrying in ways about the future. By giving Starr the perspective and not making it third person, it allows for the chance for the reader to catch a glimpse into the heart and mind of the people who are first hand witnesses and know what it feels to be on the front lines of this situation. Starr is young but her dialogue sounds like a teenager, especially a teenager in her environment. Black people know what it’s like to have to be different people depending on the crowd and how hard and confusing that can be. What it’s like living in a hard and dangerous neighborhood but being able to see the brightness that exists in these places. Seeing the world through Starr’s eyes you feel that emotional confusion, disappointment, love, hope, bravery… all of it. At least I did.
Powerful Story. This story is RELEVANT! I cannot stress this enough. Whether you like the book or not, the story and the message is so important. Starr witnesses something so terrible that it affects her, it affects the people around her and it affected me reading it. We have seen so many deaths of black people, especially unarmed black people within the last few years and it still has an effect today. I think this novel takes something that has been so real and amplifies it and shows that people can have a voice when they feel like they have none. Starr agonizes over what she witnessed and constantly thinks about it to the point where it begins to affect her life at school, at home and she doesn’t know what to do to handle it. As the story goes on, we see her struggle with feeling strong and brave and by the end she has transformed into someone that I think we all want to be when faced with a trial such as this. Powerful journey.
Family Ties. Outside of the story, one of the strongest aspects of this book is the family. All of them. Starr has a great family and they all felt like real people. Her father came off as this big imposing man, but he cared about his wife and kids, he did whatever it took to protect them. Her mother was a protector but also a nurturing woman who knew her kids and who also did whatever it took to make sure her family was safe. Then there’s Seven who is the big brother and he has a lot of demons he must deal with, but he always tried to be there for his siblings, all of them. Sekani is the little brother and he is just like a little brother. We meet Uncle Carlos who is a strong character as well (there are a LOT of adults in this book which is great because for some reason YA books are allergic to caring and present adults lol) and of course Nana and Aunt Pam and then Seven’s other sisters and of course when they accept other people into their family. it’s just a strong bond that is created with all of them.
Real Aspect. I love how real the story is and how relevant it is. I think with a story like this, it could easily become something that feels over dramatic, or feel false but that doesn’t happen here. While I read the book, I truly felt like I was standing right there with Starr, experiencing everything she felt. All her emotions, her thoughts, I was on the sidelines and that is a testament to Angie Thomas and her storytelling abilities.
Thug Life. We learn about this twice in the story. In the beginning, Khalil and Starr have a moment driving where he explains this to her and she takes it in, but I think she really feels it later when she goes over it with her father. I’m not going to tell you what it means if you don’t know already, but it’s so powerfully used in the book that any time it came up, I immediately thought of what it meant for me, or for black people and it’s interwoven so well into the story without even being blatantly referenced that I still kept thinking about it after finishing the novel.
Just a bit too long. This is literally my only complaint about the book. I think the story could have been cut down a bit because the stuff with DeVante could have been cut out or at least cut down. *gasps* Blasphemy! lol I get why it was there because it’s another chance… but he could have still been in the story but not an entire side plot. It made the story feel bloated. I had a really hard time thinking why I thought the book might have been too long. I went through a lot of parts of the book in my mind and everything else I could rationalize why it was written the way it was, why it was important but I kept coming back to the DeVante storyline and I kept thinking of ways to make it shorter, or to have moments of it skipped over by still arriving to the same conclusion of the plot and it worked out in my mind. I would also think in the movie, they would either cut it out completely or really file it down for the sake of run time.
Overall, I really really really loved this book. The hype surrounding it very much earned and I see why it’s such a powerful and relevant book for people. It’s important for stories like this to be told because it’s what’s happening in the world today and I think if people dislike this book for telling that kind of story then I’m not sure what to say because it’s real. The book may be a work of fiction but the nature of it is reality. The characters are well written and fully realized, the atmosphere feels real and I feel like I’m there beside Starr while these things are happening. It’s emotional and it is so real. My one complaint is a minor one and it doesn’t affect how I view the story overall. It’s amazing.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars. I know I had a con, but I think otherwise this book is pretty much perfection. I’m so glad it exists.
I work in the public library and I know this book is challenged by people when it comes to their young ones reading it and I don’t think it’s merited, sure, it does have profanity in it, but I guarantee you your teens curse or have in the company of their peers. You’re afraid that this book is going to taint how teenagers, or people in general, view law enforcement without them having the chance to experience it for themselves? I’m sure they already have by seeing the many videos available for public use of black people being killed. No one has to like the book, that’s fine but I encourage you to read it with the idea that this is black people’s reality, and this is what black people fear probably more than anything else.
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