This novel has been making its rounds on all of the major lists. Everywhere I go, I see this novel being recommended. And I will admit, at first, I was hesitant. It wasn’t about the content; I strongly believe that the issues this novel addresses are ones that everyone should read and educate themselves about. But I was apprehensive about how the author would go about spreading the message. However, I decided to give it a go. And before I even begin this review, I would just like to say that choosing to read this novel was the best decision I ever made and it is one that I would like everyone to make. Because this novel is just that good and that necessary.
16-year-old Starr Carter lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she lives and the rich prep school she goes to. So far she’s managed to balance out the two. But everything changes when she is a witness to the fatal shooting of her best friend Khalil by a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon, Khalil’s death becomes a national headline, with many people calling him a thug, drug dealer, and even a gangbanger. Others are starting protests in his name. All anyone wants to know is: what really happened that night? The only person that can answer that question is Starr. As she finds herself being harassed by cops and even the local drug lord. Starr has to make the decision to say – or not say – something that could not only upend her community but also endanger her life.
What you have with this novel is an incredibly powerful and unforgettable journey. I have never been afraid of the police. I have never felt that a cop has looked at me with prejudice. When I started to read this novel, I thought that my biggest struggle would be to understand what this feels like. However, the author did a magnificent job of describing the emotions, the internal conflict, and the tragedy of situations like this one, where an innocent person dies for no fault of their own. Starr’s suffering is one that I truly felt. I could feel her fear when she was weighing her options, when she was deciding whether she should speak out or not. I could feel her grief over losing her best friend – and losing herself. I could feel the inner turmoil within her as she saw how this experience changed her perception of her world and of herself. And I shook with her, as she became angry when she realized how the world was projecting this heinous crime. Words do not do justice to describe how aptly this author has described this scenario, how realistic the portrayal through Starr’s eyes was, and how heartbreaking this tragedy is. There was another component to this story: that of Starr’s place in the world she knew and the world as it became after the incident. Here, we see a whole host of other characters and how Starr’s relationships with them strengthens or weakens. These interactions were varied; some were warm and funny, others were callous and cold. But the reader was able to watch Starr grow through them, and that was an amazing experience to be a part of. As I was reading the story, I was amazed at how the author infused these 2 components to create a full-bodied plot that had everything going for it. I can literally come up with 0 criticisms … and that’s saying something!
This novel is a must-read, regardless of your genre preferences or your beliefs. This novel is not only gripping, it is also educational. Whether you are someone who has experienced what Starr has, or are privileged enough to have never faced racial prejudice, this is a novel you must read. Our society needs to be more aware of its shortcomings and realize that the media is not always correct. This isn’t just about Black Lives Matter; every life matters. And this novel, while inspired by Black Lives Matter, is a call to everyone to let go of prejudice, and value every individual’s life.
So, to all those who read my blog, and to those who are on the fence about reading this book, please go and read it.