Starr Amara Carter is a black girl who lives in a predominantly black neighborhood of Garden Heights, but goes to a predominantly white private school in the suburbs. She’s always had to code switch between her two different environments, but when she sees her friend getting shot and killed by a police officer for no reason, she can no longer brush off the differences.
Angie Thomas tackles difficult issues about structural racism, death of a friend, and police brutality in such a captivating way that it was hard for me to put the book down to go to sleep. I gave myself a whole week to read this but finished in only two weekdays. As a young adult novel it is easy to read, but it also reaches into your heart and grabs it.
As people of color, we often have to “tone down” our culture in our behaviour in order to blend in, and endure microaggressions, ignorant and insensitive remarks that you don’t address most of the time as they are seemingly insignificant and you fear being seen as petty, even though they do affect you. It alienates you from the community you come from, and even then, you aren’t fully accepted in your new community. Through Starr’s experience, this is shown perfectly in the book, and perhaps this book is a great learning opportunity to those who don’t experience or understand it.
As much as I related to a lot of Starr’s life, I’ve acquired lots of newfound understanding of other POC’s experience. I knew about the “ghetto” conceptually, but I didn’t live in one or even near one. It made me think more deeply about how a whole community is trapped in such a vicious cycle by design.
For the most part, the book’s plot does not deviate far from expectation. Her friend dies, she grieves and seeks justice. Not much surprise there. Yet it manages to be so very infatuating. I think that’s because Angie Thomas’s writing is so powerful. One thing from the book that I didn’t expect was, (spoiler alert) when asked what she would say to the police officer that killed Khalil, Starr says she would ask him if he wished he had shot her too. It caught me a little bit off-guard and I thought it was genius. Everyone else is either already condemning him or trying to justify what he did. But Starr, only Starr, could say that.
I think everyone should read this book. For people of colour, it can provide catharsis, empowerment, and encouragement for self-discovery. For white people, a better understanding of this world that we live in. It is an excellent book. Angie Thomas has another book coming out soon, and I can’t wait to read it as well.