Author: Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Add it to your shelf: Goodreads
There has never been a more important time to see things from someone else’s point of view, especially when that point of view comes from a Black girl growing up around shootings and police brutality. Right now is a time to listen and learn and become a better ally to the people around us who need it most. I know reading this book isn’t much in terms of the bigger picture, but it is a good place to start. At the end of the day it feels like the world is finally changing in a meaningful and positive way, so anything you can do to change things for the better and keep things pushing the right way is valuable.
On to the book itself, I loved this one. The book starts out at a high pace right out of the gate and sets the tone quickly for what this will be about. Our main character Starr sees her friend shot and killed by a police officer in what should have been a routine interaction. He did nothing wrong and was only asking questions about why he was being pulled over and checking to make sure Starr was alright when the cop decided he was a threat and shot him dead in front of her. Sound familiar? When I said this is an important book to read right now I meant it. This one hits close to home in almost every way imaginable in our current situation and it’s a story that everyone can learn something from.
The story is incredibly grounded and mirrors our reality in a way that is incredibly relevant. This book is a work of fiction, but if you told me it was a true story I would believe you with no problem. It is so well written and emotional that I honestly felt like I was reading a real account of true events. I want to make sure I shout out how talented Angie Thomas is, she has created something remarkable with this book that, unfortunately, will be relevant for quite some time. This is the kind of book schools should have children reading, rather than something that covers the same themes in an outdated manner. *cough* To Kill a Mockingbird *cough*
The way Starr deals with the emotional damage of losing two friends to shootings is powerful. It shows the toll it can take on someone when they have to deal with rampant violence in their life. Starr grows up in a part of town that some would consider “the ghetto”, but she is sent to school in a more affluent part of town where she feels like she has to act like a slightly different person. She doesn’t want people to think of her as “the ghetto Black girl” and so she makes sure to keep these two lives of hers separate. It works just fine at first, but after her friend Khalil is shot and killed in front of her by a cop it gets much harder for her to keep these two versions of herself from crossing over.
In her school life she tries to keep things professional and focused on school and basketball. She even has a boyfriend and friends who think they know everything about her. She also has an Uncle who lives in this part of town who is a cop himself, he has been a big part of her life and has acted as a second father figure to her. He, along with the teachers, are the only people in this part of her life that know about the shootings and the loss Starr has had to deal with and keep inside.
At home things are much different. She lives in a part of town that is known for rampant gang violence and her dad used to be heavily involved in the life. This means that no matter what she is going to have interactions with gang members and the lifestyle. She never gets into any of it herself, and her family does a good job of keeping out of all of it, but just growing up around it and having it be an ever present part of her life has an effect on who she it. The thing she has trouble realizing, at least at first, though is how close the neighborhood is because of all the things they go through together. None of them are fake with each other like they are the other half of her life, and these people treat each other like a real family. They all have each other’s backs, at least for the most part.
The thing that sets this book apart is how it is never afraid to just be real. This is a fictional story that is rooted in reality and the way it keeps itself grounded makes for something special. The book makes no attempt for this to be a hero story, the characters know they can’t change everything all on their own and they only make the changes they realistically could, and that’s what makes the story so relatable and something that should be read by everyone. I can recommend this completely, I know I was a bit late to the party but this is one of the best books I have read in a long time.
As always, thanks so much for reading! Let me know if you have read this one or plan on picking it up. If you’ve seen the movie based on this book drop me a comment letting me know if I should check it out! If you liked this post then be sure to check back (at least) every Wednesday and Saturday for new posts or sign-up via email to be notified of every post! Be safe and have a great day!