Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter has two selves: one who attends an upscale prep school in suburbia, and the other who lives in a poor neighborhood in gang territory. One night while she’s at a neighborhood party, Starr escapes from gang-related gunfire with Khalil, an old childhood friend. As they are driving home, Khalil is pulled over by the police for a broken tail-light, and a horrified Starr is the only witness to his murder. He was unarmed.
As protests and riots begin and the media frames Khalil as a drug dealer and thug, Starr realizes she is the only one who can speak out for the truth and justice for Khalil’s murder. However, if she speaks, it will change her life and endanger her and her family…
This has been THE YA BOOK to read for 2017, so I’ve been waiting a few months to finally be able to get my hands on it. I was SO not disappointed. This book was so real to me. It’s likely to be one I will never forget and must become a classic for YA, a touchstone for this point in history we’re experiencing. It was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, and shows an example of why this movement has happened. Even if you’re against BLM, I challenge you to read this book, to see a different perspective, and then make up your mind on the movement.
It brings to life real people, true emotions, and gives a raw, heartwrenching glimpse into events that have been happening in places all over the country. It forces you to confront your own views or stereotypes of different ideas, such as Khalil’s being framed as a drug dealer and therefore his murder “negated” by him selling drugs.
Tempted to write him off?
Starr wrestles with the idea, because his own mother is a drug addict, and why would Khalil ever sell something he hated that deprived him of a mother? In short, *SPOILER* it was either do this and save his mother’s life or let her be killed for her debts. Mightn’t you do something desperate to save a parent? A sibling? A child?
Readers, be aware that this book pulls no punches. There’s violence, language, drug references…it’s for a more mature audience than middle schoolers. However, this book is full of so much empathy that I was crying and laughing in various points. There were some awesome quotes that I have to share, some are just ones I loved or laughed at (see quotes below slideshow), but others speak to a deeper meaning.
Note: Some image quotes I created myself on my phone. That is small, so forgive me for not adding quotation marks or the book title. 🙂
* * *
“Problem is it would’ve taken Black Jesus to convince my parents to let me come [to a Garden party]. Now Black Jesus will have to save me if they find out I’m here.”
* * *
“But after Khalil I’m more like a Taylor Swift song. (No shade, I fucks with Tay-Tay, but she doesn’t serve like nineties R&B on the angry-girlfriend scale.)”
* * *
“‘She hasn’t acted like a mom to him! Now all of a sudden, he’s her baby? It’s bullshit!’
Momma smacks the counter, and I jump. ‘Shut up!’ she screams. She turns around, tears streaking her face. ‘That wasn’t some li’l friend of hers. That was her son, you hear me? Her son!’ Her voice cracks. ‘She carried that boy, birthed that boy. And you have no right to judge her.'”
* * *
“Daddy claims the Hogwarts houses are really gangs. They have their own colors, their own hideouts, and they are always riding for each other, like gangs. Harry, Ron, and Hermione never snitch on one another, just like gangbangers. Death Eaters even have matching tattoos. And look at Voldemort. They’re scared to say his name. Really, that ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’ stuff is like giving him a street name. That’s some gangbanging shit right there.”
* * *
“Maverick, I don’t give a flying monkey’s ass what your problem is, just be there for your daughter. Please?”
* * *
“A lump forms in my throat as the truth hits me. Hard. ‘That’s why people are speaking out, huh? Because it won’t change if we don’t say something.’
‘Exactly. We can’t be silent.’
‘So I can’t be silent.’
. . .
This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U; everybody who looks like us, feels like us, and is experiencing this pain with us despite not knowing me or Khalil. My silence isn’t helping Us.”
* * *
“Others are fighting too, even in the Garden, where sometimes it feels like there’s not a lot worth fighting for. People are realizing and shouting and marching and demanding. They’re not forgetting. I think that’s the most important part.
Khalil, I’ll never forget.
I’ll never give up.
I’ll never be quiet.
* * *
Acknowledgements by Angie Thomas: “And to every kid in Georgetown and in all ‘the Gardens’ of the world: your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be roses that grow in the concrete.”