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. (Excerpt from Goodreads)
I seriously can’t wrap my head around why it took me SO LONG to pick this one up; I should have read this much earlier than I actually did.
This is an incredibly powerful, electrifying book I have read all year. This one definitely lives up to the hype that it has garnered.
The author did an amazing, stunning job of delivering truthful accounts of what’s happening in the world and the long-standing issues that have been deeply entrenched in our society as well as shedding an enlightening light to our subconscious prejudice.
The writing is solid, powerful, and incredibly strong. The story is told from the perspective of Starr so the story is woven with relatively short, simple sentences. But don’t be fooled – the writing packs an incredibly strong punch that makes you feel sick in the stomach at times. It’s acute, brutal and sometimes just sickening. I can hardly imagine how much time Angie Thomas spent condensing her feelings, messages that she wanted convey down to these short sentence. When those sentences are consumed by us readers, as soon as they sink down our system, they rock us to the core; the explosion comes sometimes immediately, sometimes slowly like tidal waves. But it doesn’t make any difference in terms of the power and gravity this book delivers. I was simply amazed by her writing.
I must admit that it took me a while to get used to the diction, but it didn’t affect me in the way I perceived this book.
In my reading updates, I remember saying that I found some scenes and parts a bit dull and underwhelming; but I was wrong. I now know it was all because the author was carefully building up the world of the story, literally laying the groundwork for the blast that comes later in the book. As expected, from Part 2, the story picks up and it gets only more captivating and enthralling, staggering at times.
What shook me is the messages this book delivers; the injustice placed upon the minority group, the prejudice we subconsciously have against those who we see as ‘different,’ and the total bulls***t that law enforcement, even the grand jury reaches on the incident.
This book made me cry and boiling with anger. I even went on a rant on my Goodreads updates. I was so frustrated and even reached the point where I felt ashamed of myself. The messages, the subject matters that this book deal with should be acknowledged by everyone, EVERYONE. As a fiction reader who is less inclined to go to news articles and other non-fiction books, I really appreciate Angie Thomas for writing this book and bringing this issue to my attention.
Another thing this book pointed out to me is where the cause of the prejudice lies.
In this book, Starr’s friend, Hailey is described as a ‘racist,’ and through a run-in with Hailey, Maya makes a confession that clearly illustrates Haily’s tendency to paint others based on wrong conceptions or based on their race.
What I found problematic or what bothered me here is that Starr blamed Hailey for being a racist (or, at least lashed out at her tendency of thinking White people’s lives matter more than those of black people) without giving any distinct, specific reason.
She later herself says, ‘we let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us.What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?’
In this run-in scene, Starr and Maya didn’t point out, or talked Hailey into what exactly wrong with her remarks. Without any in-depth explanations or talks, nobody can see why it’s wrong and their attitudes need to be corrected. Unless we are made acknowledge or instilled in moral sense, a clear distinction between what is allowed to say and what is not – we never know the ‘boundary.’
That was another thing that this book reminded me and although I wouldn’t say heart-to-heart talks will always work, I think it’s important enough for each and every one of us to bear in mind throughout our lives.
The argument, the clash between Starr and Chris at the Prom clearly reflects the deeply rooted racial issue that we have now, too. Throughout her life, Starr has mastered how to shift and fine-tune her attitudes depending on who she’s with; she subconsciously modifies her behavior – how to react, how to act, what to say etc, etc. She thought she can be herself with Chris, but she actually wasn’t. Her desire of not being seen as a charity case or seen from a ‘ghetto’ (as she puts it) made her hide her true self even from someone who’s supposed to be the closest to her. That insurmountable ‘barrier’ that could potentially have its roots in ‘race’ and lead to prejudice hit home for me.
To be honest, talking about this book as a fiction novel doesn’t seem to do any justice; it even seems totally irrelevant at least to me.
Reading this book made me realize how ignorant I have been and what makes the ‘real problem’ in our society – it lies with ourselves – partially, at least.
The latter part – particularly Part 5 is stunning. It really picks up the pace and culminates in a dramatic, stunning, beautiful end.
So many things happen in this Part 5, but the change arrives in Starr’s mind is particularly notable.
She goes through a lot of emotions; fear, despair, grief, but she finally recognizes what really matters in life and finds ‘real courage’. What she goes through shakes her and freaks her out at times to the extent she wants to hide, not being recognized as ‘the witness’ – too heavy a burden for a 16 year-old girl to bear. But with the support from her family, Daddy and Momma, Seven, and Chris and so many others – she finds her VOICE. She determines to step out of her comfort zone and fight for justice.
This progression is done in a very natural way, it flows beautifully and doesn’t feel contrived or convenient at all. Combined with the fantastic characterizations of Starr’s family – especially Daddy and Momma – everything came into me really naturally without a hitch. Starr’s family dynamics is really a breath of fresh air – I liked it a lot.
I am quite satisfied with the direction this book take. It’s literally a ‘rude awakening’ yet is quite enlightening and pregnant with meaning.
There’s no sugar-coating, no embellishments, I feel this is a slavishly truthful reflection of the problems and issues that we have and again, this should be read by everyone.
This book won’t disappoint you.
I highly recommend everyone pick this up and I’m truly glad I finally did.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.