A book review that’s long overdue. I read this book in 2019 and decided to wait with the review after I have watched the movie. A few months past and COVID-19 hit. I thought about this book again when the Black Lives Matter Movement peaked. Then, I reflected upon this book a few days ago after recalling what happened at the Capitol building on Wednesday, 06 January 2021. So, this book review is long overdue.
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.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.
Where to begin with such an amazing book by Angie Thomas? From the first chapter, I was drawn into the action. What I love about both the book and the movie is that it sort of starts off the same. Readers are briefly introduced to the main characters but not too much to draw away from what’s really about to happen.
Starr, our main character who attends a predominantly white school but lives in a black community called Garden Heights attends a party one night in the neighbourhood. A quarrel starts which leads to everyone evacuating. Starr catches a ride with a friend, Khalil but they are stopped by a white policeman who ends up shooting Khalil. From there, a movement starts to clear Khalil’s name of being called a gang member and drug dealer by the media. Starr was the only witness at the time and feels she can only bring Khalil justice.
It’s as if Starr’s two worlds have collided and now she had to make a decision. Which one will she stand up for? Of course, standing up for your people is the right thing to do. Her entire life at school changes and she realizes the true colours of some people. Yet she doesn’t make things easy when she has a crush on a white boy named Chris.
Starr is a complex character as she is put in a position to make some life-changing decisions. Either speak up for Khalil or be silenced. With such a traumatic thing happening to her, I didn’t expect a lot of character development yet I was still amazed at the end. Her relationships with her family and friends really contributed to her development. She began to stand up for herself more confidently and in the end, joined the protest.
The reason why I was so motivated to write this review now because I realized now more than ever how realistic this book actually was. When things got out of hand in the community with the protests and riots, it’s really similar to the Black Lives Matter Movement. Replace Khalil with George Floyd and you’re looking at reality. Not to mention all the other people who have lost their lives to police brutality.
The world-building was super detailed in terms of describing an entire community, creating relationships, putting up a divide where white and black people meet. Even the school Starr and her brothers attended was a great example of parents only wanting the best for their children’s education.
The themes in this book are what makes this book important and popular. Back then I think it was one of the first books I read regarding minorities being the main characters and the plot not being entirely about romance. This book is meant to start conversations. It touches on topics that we are facing in the world right now—has been for centuries. In reality, it is sad how accurate the racism in this book is both on how POC are treated and how some white people act.
Overall reading this book made me sad and I might have shed a tear or two—then watching the movie only made it worse! Kudos to Amandla Stenberg’s performance! Reading this book as a POC only made me feel pure rage as to how accurate it was and how things haven’t changed. Personally, I think it’ll take a good few generations for some world peace.
This book became one of my rare five-star reviews. I know this review isn't the normal layout I usually do, I just started typing and couldn’t stop. I hope not only bookworms read this but a book like this is should be incorporated in the education system. There are so many great YA literature nowadays to replace the classics we usually read. Plus, books like this touch on more pressing matters happening in the world right now. I hope those who’ve read this book took a lot from it. For more books by Angie Thomas, click here.