Author: Angie Thomas
Publisher: Walker Books
Publication Date: 6. April 2017
Rating: 5./5. Stars
TW: Racism, Murder, Police Brutality
Summary: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
Since I am white, I don’t want to talk about how this book opened my eyes to unfair police brutality and the danger black people face while dealing with police, to racist everyday comments and terrible allyship that only benefits the ally. These are all topics that are explored in the book, along with quite a few others. All I can say about this book is that it is definitely one of the most important and heart-wrenching books in our time. Inspired by real-life police killings and the police brutality that started the Black Lives Matter movement, this book explores important sociopolitical aspects.
In addition to this, this book is also amazingly well written with interesting and life-like characters, a story that discusses so many different problems and parts that influence the life of a poor black person in America, but also the life of a teenage girl, about growing up, about relationships and friendships and family and a corrupt law system, racism and stereotyping, and it’s done amazingly well.
We are told this story through the eyes of teenage girl Starr, who witnessed her friend Khalil get shot by a police officer, despite obliging with him at every turn. Later on, we see how the media demonizes Khalil, telling lies and using stereotypes to justify his murder. Despite her fear, Starr knows she has to speak out. And so she does, trying desperately to get justice.
The most important part of this book are definitely the relationships between Starr and other people: her family, her white classmates, her white boyfriend, the people in her neighborhood. All of these relationships are very well fleshed out and incredibly interesting. I loved how both plot and characters played such an important role in this book, neither covering the other. They were perfectly balanced and it was so good.
The writing is also incredibly well done. Character descriptions, their relationships, all of them felt unique and amazing, without ever getting one-dimensional. So not only does this book explore important sociopolitical points, but it is also one of the best YA novels I’ve read in a while.
Another important part of the novel is Starr, the main character. She is resilient, authentic and so, so amazing. Despite being terribly afraid, she decides to speak out for what is right. She has every reason to be afraid, she’s traumatized by seeing two people she loved shot right in front of her, her family gets threatened and everybody tries to paint the murder victim as somehow responsible for getting shot. She also deals with going to a mostly white school, racist “friends” and her white boyfriend who sometimes just doesn’t understand her on top of all that as well.
I also adored Starr’s family. Her parents have a great relationship and while they fight sometimes, you can absolutely see how much they love her. Families are way too often overlooked in YA, and while not all families are good families, it was so great to read about this family. Like I said: Great Relationships.
Also Angie Thomas’ writing style is amazing and I read the whole book in a day, absolutely engrossed in the story and pretty much unable to put it down (I had to, because I had to walk somewhere, but as soon as I could sit down again, the book was glued to my hand again.)
So to recap if you are looking for a sociopolitical story: Read this book. If you are looking for a contemporary and important novel: Read this book. If you are looking for the best YA book you’ve read in a while, with an amazing MC: Read this book. If you’re looking for a heart-wrenching and terrifyingly true story: Read this book. If you are looking for amazing side-characters: Also read this book. Just read this book. Do it. It’s great.