Starr is a 16-year-old African American girl. She goes to school at Williamson, which is the private high school made up of mostly white kids, but she lives in the Garden, a place that many including herself sometimes consider the “ghetto”. She usually doesn’t talk to many of the people there, simply because she doesn’t go to school with them, but one night she goes to a party thrown by the local drug lord simply because everyone else including her step-siblings is going to be there. She meets up with one of her childhood friends, Khalil, and when shots break out he drives her home.
On the way home, a cop stops them. Starr knows what to do, as her parents already taught her about what to do if she was ever stopped by a cop while driving. Keep your hands in sight, no quick movements, and do everything they say without questioning them. Khalil’s mother was a drug addict, his father wasn’t in the picture, so he was raised mostly by his grandmother, and immediately Starr worried if he had been given the “talk” or not. Obviously, he hadn’t because immediately he was questioning the officer’s motives and interests in stopping them. Starr had heard rumors that he had been selling drugs, but when the cop first stopped them he to her that there was nothing in the car that could possibly incriminate them. When Khalil was told to get out of the car, he did so reluctantly, but when the cop turned around Khalil moved to ask Starr if she was okay. Before he could even finish his sentence, the cop shot him 3 times. Star ran out of the car to at least hold him while he died, but the cop kept his gun on her until the backup came. The ambulance saw that Khalil was dead and didn’t even pick his body up off the street immediately, just leaving him there to haunt Starr’s dreams.
Starr’s parents try to help her through the situation as best as they can, while at the same time keeping the details away from her 9-year-old brother who saw Khalil all the time. Khalil was almost another son to them, simply because he was around so much since his mom wasn’t at home. In the Garden, people are having protests/riots over his death. Starr wants to get up and say something like she told herself she would if something like this ever happened to her and she was a witness, but she is too afraid of being targeted for saying something. At Williamson, they barely know about Khalil, and so they don’t feel the emotional connection at all, nor do they actually go about the situations with the right attitudes. To them, its just another person, but to Starr, it was one of her few childhood best friends. She wants to tell the people at her school, even her boyfriend, that she was there, but she is afraid of how they might react, asking questions she isn’t ready to answer, or even how they might judge her. She struggles between doing what she wants to do, what she knows is right, and doing what is safest for her and even her family.
I think that this was one of the most relatable books that I have read all year. I was the same age as the main character, the same race, heck even my HAIR looks like hers in that picture (sometimes). Starr is quite a mature character. Even when her so-called friends are barely doing anything to try to understand what she might even possibly be going through, even if they didn’t know she was with him, and even with all of the craziness that was happening in both neighborhoods. She managed to keep her head above the water and power through, to try to get her friend justice. Eventually, some of her true friends show their colors, and help her through her rough situation, letting her know that she is not alone.
There is quite a bit of foul language and maybe 1-2 inappropriate scenes in this book, so it is definitely not for little kids. Middle schoolers may not even understand everything that is going on in the book. However, for high schoolers, especially those who have been seeing these unjustified shootings since we were in middle school (like me), this is a perfect book for the times and is a great read overall. I recommend to anyone over the age of 14-15. (I also heard something about a movie upcoming? If so, I advise you to snatch up this book while you can and read it so that you can be ahead of the game!)
Overall Rating: 6/5