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.
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**My thoughts**I read this book over two sittings. When I finished, I was absolutely speechless. I pretty much sat for over an hour trying to process it all. That is the mark of a good book – one that keeps you thinking after it is over. And it stuck with me for several days. It also inspired a lot of reflection and some of my own writing – another indication of an excellent book.
They say that you can’t understand someone else’s story until you have walked in their shoes. Reading Starr’s story is the closest I’ll ever get to being a teenage Black girl. You really feel that you are right there with her because the descriptions of what she sees and feels are so articulate and vivid. A lot echoed stories I have heard from friends and other Black people I have met. It was all so real.
But of course, while Starr is a fictional character, what she experiences really is real right now and has been for a while. You would almost think that this had just been written because of events that have transpired over the past year-plus (e.g. George Floyd). But it was published back in 2017.
I am also highly impressed that this is a debut novel, because it is so well written. I admit this gives me very high hopes for Angie Thomas’s other two books, which I believe are a prequel and a sequel to this one.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who works with youth or has any interest in the current social justice climate. I also think those wo do not understand the current climate need to read this, though they will be harder to convince to do so. You’ll come away with a different perspective and hopefully feel pulled to reflect and to do something.