When a substantial portion of our population repeatedly and emphatically says there is something broken within our system, I think our government, “the powers that be,” and our average citizens owe it to all of us to take it seriously. I am neither black nor male, but the racism that has taken over in the USA–on all sides–is absolutely crazy. I watch all this from the other side of the world, and my heart breaks for our country. It seems we are so divided, I’m not sure we should call ourselves the “United” States anymore. The world is watching, and from an outside perspective, it isn’t pretty at all.
Regardless of whether you agree with the premise of this book, I implore you to read it and keep an open mind. Ms. Thomas is a debut author, and she has written a YA novel that, to me, stretches far beyond the intended teen audience. An important book that is, for me, easily one of 2017’s best. Don’t miss it.
AUTHOR: Angie Thomas
PUBLISHER: Balzer + Bray
PUBLICATION DATE: February 28, 2017
GENRE: realistic fiction
SETTING: Garden Heights (ghetto), present-day
GIVE IT TO: upper-MS, HS
SUMMARY: Sixteen-year old Starr was with her best childhood friend Khalil when a police officer shoots Khalil in a routine traffic stop. Now, Starr is trying to stay anonymous in the inevitable aftermath that follows the shooting of an unarmed black teen.
REVIEW: I’ve put off writing this review for almost two weeks now. How can any review I write possibly do this book justice? How can I emphasize its importance and potential to change minds and hearts? It is so eye-opening, and while I’m sure there will be people who bash it or disagree with Starr’s decisions or what the novel is trying to say, I really hope everyone, including adults (especially adults), takes the time to read it.
I’m sure there are people who will read it and just get mad, but those are people whose opinions are absolutely set in a certain way. If your mind is set, it will be easy to harumph the book, and probably nothing will ever change your opinion or make you see anything different from what you already believe to be true.
The characters are well-drawn and feel like real people. Sixteen-year old Starr is someone any one of us might know. She’s a basketball player, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a friend, and a student. Because she attends a mostly-white private school in the suburbs, Starr has her “Williamson” life and her “Garden Heights” life, which is where she grew up, in the ghetto. Starr isn’t perfect; she has plenty of moments of confusion and indecision. She doesn’t always do the right thing, even though she knows in her heart what she needs to do. She’s understandably afraid.
Another favorite character is Starr’s father, Maverick. Maverick is a former gang member who, after a 3-year jail term, has turned his life around and now owns a local grocery store. I loved him so much! He’s a tough protector of the youth he takes under his wing, even risking multiple threats and acts of violence in order to keep a local teen boy safe. Though he and his family can afford to move out of Garden Heights, Maverick really wants to stay and be an example to wayward boys who think joining a gang or selling drugs are their only options.
I also loved Starr’s boyfriend, Chris, a white basketball player at Starr’s school. I wasn’t sure about him at first–I thought Starr’s romantic life might go another direction–but Chris loves Starr and wants to understand her “other” life outside their school. I really respected how he supports Starr’s decisions and stays with her during the riots.
THEMES: racism, Black Lives Matter, family, gangs, poverty, police shootings
THE BOTTOM LINE: Whether or not you agree with the Black Lives Matter movement, I urge everyone to read this important book. It’s well-written and interesting, and the characters feel like real people we might actually know. A must-read and among 2017’s best. Don’t miss it!
STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: Two copies on-order.
- Overall: 5/5
- Creativity: 5/5
- Characters: 5/5
- Engrossing: 5/5
- Writing: 5/5
- Appeal to teens: 5/5
- Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5
- Language: high–includes lots of F-bombs and sh**
- Sexuality: medium; some intense kissing scenes
- Violence: medium; murder, riots, vandalism, threats of violence, gang activity, guns
- Drugs/Alcohol: mild; some characters are drug dealers