This book has been sitting on my to-read shelf for some time. During this time I have seen reviews and social media posts praising and affirming it. Now I know what all the hype is about. Now I know why it is on bestseller lists, and probably will be for years to come. This is an important book, in fact, to say it has an important message sounds trivial, as it is more than this.
Sixteen-year-old Starr is torn between her Williamson self, at her posh school in the suburbs and wealthy friends, and Garden Heights Starr, the poor neighbourhood where she lives. This is evident from the start of the novel, when Starr attends a party at the Heights with her friend Kenya. She is uncomfortable amidst people, some of whom she has known her entire life. She meets Khalil Harris, one of her oldest friends, and when they hear shots fired they leave the party together. Khalil is driving Starr home when he is pulled over by police. Khalil is pulled from the car and when the officer is checking his papers, Khalil decides to check on Starr. The officer shoots him in the back. Starr tries to help him but she can’t and the officer points the gun at her until help arrives. Khalil is the second person Starr has seen die from being shot. She is the only witness and it is only her voice that can help Kahlil now. The incident and its fallout forces Starr’s two worlds to come together, some aspects crashing and bouncing off each other so hard there is no coming back, others colliding and eventually working together. Starr finds her voice, and this novel will inspire others to do the same.
This is an incredible read for many reasons. Firstly, the Black Lives Matter movement inspired the book. There are many aspects and references in the book to the Civil Rights movement in America. This is important and relevant today, and will be for years to come. It also shines a light on the persecution suffered because of where people live, their skin colour and age. Secondly, the writing is amazing. I was with Starr all the way, feeling her pain and her grief. Starr’s family members are close and have enormous respect and love for each other. This was a strong element in the book I really loved, and at times I laughed at the way they spoke and acted with each other. Even though Garden Heights is a poor neighbourhood with many problems, mostly drug related, there is a sense of community that is strong and reliable. The characters and scenes were so well written that they played in my head all the way.
There is no way I could ever imagine what it is like to live in either setting, Garden Heights or Williamson, without reading this book. Books such as this give a strong voice to the many injustices and prejudices that exist. They show racism for what it truly is and should be commended. I applaud Angie Thomas and thank her for showing me and readers like me worldwide, what the Black Lives Matter movement is about. It is more than just words.
Many thanks to Walker Books for supplying this book for review.