***MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!! Read the spoiler free review for this book here!***
Find this book on Goodreads here,
Genre: YA Contemporary
Rating: 5/5 doughnuts
Summary: This story follows 16-year-old Starr, who is struggling to balance her two worlds: the poor, black neighborhood that she grew up in and the mostly white high school that she attends in the suburbs. These worlds threaten to collide when Starr is the only witness to the shooting by a police officer, that took the life of her childhood friend Khalil.
Plot: This story is broken up into five parts, starting with the introduction of Starr and the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil and continuing on with the aftermath of the shooting. There are a lot of moving parts to this story, but in a way that isn’t at all overwhelming. I never felt that there was too much going on, or that the story was dragging at any point. The story is told in Starr’s first person voice, yet I found myself being able to clearly hear the voices of the other character’s through hers. Every character is so well developed on their own, and in their relationship with Starr as well. I felt the divide between Starr’s two worlds clearly and as the story progressed, I felt them slowly come together. Each character brings their own unique perspectives to the story in such a true-to-life way. Thinking back on the story now, I think the most impactful plot point for me was the result of the case against the police officer who killed Khalil. He is found not guilty. Here’s the thing. I knew this would be the case. From the beginning, I knew that at least in this book, we wouldn’t get justice for Khalil. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. I read the words and I was still in shock. I couldn’t believe it. Maybe somewhere inside of me I had hoped that the outcome would be different, Maybe I thought because this was fiction, because this wasn’t real life, that we would get our “happy ending”. But the fact of the matter is, the outcome of this case is EXACTLY the outcomes we’ve been seeing in the U.S. today. This story isn’t meant to give us hope; it is meant to give us the truth. This is as honest as it gets. Pay attention.
Characters: I personally feel that almost every character in this story, major and minor, brought some significance to the story, but here I’ll focus on those that I think are the most notable.
Starr: Oh Starr. I related to her in so many ways. She’s smart, brave, strong, and so funny. She’s just trying to find herself in her two vastly different worlds and that to me is so relatable. It’s enough to try and find yourself in general, as a teenager coming into yourself, but to add in the different aspects of your life and how they make you who you are is a whole other ball game. Another thing that Starr struggles with is finding her voice in the aftermath of her friend’s death. She feels guilty because she and Khalil had drifted before he died. She wants justice for him but is being pulled in every direction; being told by some in her neighborhood to keep quiet about what happened, and to speak up but others. All while the media paints a disfiguring picture of Khalil, who for all his faults, just wanted to do right by his family. Starr really came into herself by the end of the story and learned for herself what it means to use your voice.
Khalil: Khalil is killed very early on in the book but his presence and his story carries on until the end. When Starr interacts with him in the beginning of the story, she realizes how much they had grown apart in the months leading up to the beginning of the book. Starr reminisces on her childhood memories with Kahlil and this a clear picture of how close they had once been. They also shared the loss of another childhood friend of theirs, Natasha, who was shot in a drive-by right in front of Starr. Getting to know Khalil after his death made his loss even more tragic because we learn, as Starr did, that Khalil was just a teenage boy who had the burden of taking care of his family, that no one at his age should have to take on. Despite how the media and the gang members in his community portray him, Khalil was just a boy who loved his family and did what he thought needed to be done to care for them.
Starr’s Parents: I’m in love with Starr’s entire family and the dynamic that they have but her parents, Maverick and Lisa, are hands down my two favorite adult characters in the book. They are both hilarious and their love for each other and their kids is so beautifully evident. They both want the same thing for their kids: to have better in life than they did. They both have different ideas of how they could give them that. They both make compromises, Maverick allowing the kids to go to school in the suburbs and Lisa allowing the family to remain living in the neighborhood that they were in. It was interesting to see the change in that conversation after Khalil is shot. Lisa wants out of the neighborhood as she feels it was no longer good for her family. I think that Maverick knows this too and probably always did, but his strong sense of community is what originally held him back. In the end I was happy that he was able to see that he could have what was best for his family while still maintaining his ties to his community.
Uncle Carlos: I love Uncle Carlos for what he means to Star personally, but also for what he represents in this story. The fact that he is a cop brings in a unique perspective of what it must be like to be on both sides of Khalil’s death. In the beginning, he defends the cop who shot Khalil and even went as far as shaming Khalil for the way he was presumably living his life before he died. His views change though after he learns all of Starr’s story, and I feel that either way his intentions were good. His relationship with Maverick had always rocky and there is tension between them throughout the majority of the book. One of my favorite moments of the story comes towards the end when the two come to an understanding because of their mutual love for Starr.
Seven: Seven is everything. He is such an amazing big brother to all of his siblings and his love and loyalty towards all of his parents always made me smile. I love how close he is to Lisa, especially because of the rocky relationship he has with his biological mother.
Kenya: Even though we really don’t get to know Kenya very well, I feel that she plays a pretty significant role in helping Starr find her voice. It is because of Kenya’s words to her that Starr starts a blog that gives the world a look into who Khalil was outside of the distorted picture that the media is painting. I also couldn’t help but feel for her and the home life that she is living in. Neither of her parents provide a stable environment for her and she doesn’t always have big brother Seven around to look out for her like Starr did.
Chris: This boy was so cute. He had his faults here and there but it was obvious to me how much he loves Starr and how much he wanted to be a part of, and understand her world.
Hailey: This one. She’s the worst honestly, but she is a representation of how some white people and even some people of color feel and react to tragedies like Khalil’s and to race issues in general, so I appreciate her character for what she brings to the story.
Setting: This isn’t something that I’ll typically talk about in reviews but in this book, I think that it’s notable. This story takes place in the poor neighborhood and the suburbs of no specific state or region in the United States. This is important, in my opinion, and here’s why: Khalil’s fatal shooting is an honest representation of something that has become almost an epidemic in the United States today. It’s not happening in one specific city, state, or region; it’s happening nationwide. The setting of this story shows that this is something that can happen anywhere in our country.
Overall Thoughts: This. Book. Is. Everything!!! I absolutely loved it!!! I read this in one sitting, in one night. It is heartbreakingly honest and realistic. I felt so many things while reading it from happy and amused, to sad and outraged. This book is Angie Thomas’s debut novel and I’m DYING for more. Not because it wasn’t satisfying, but because I can’t get enough of this world and the characters in it! I truly have nothing negative to say about this book and I am SO EXCITED for the upcoming movie adaptation, starring Amandla Steinberg. I truly feel that this is a book that everyone, no matter who you are or where you come from, can take away from. This story hit home for me as a black woman living in America. It’s so relevant to the tragedies that have become so “normal” in the U.S. today, and I hope that it inspires more stories like it in YA literature.
Thanks for taking the time out to read my review! We’d love to know your opinions on this book! Feel free to share and sound off in the comments!