Thomas’s timely novel about Starr and the BLM movement blew me away with her powerful and honest tale. Starr is a typical girl in High School, cares about what he friends think, what shoes she wears, and how she can keep her brothers out of her business. She excels in school, is a great team player in basketball, and she loves her family. She’s worked hard at getting through the grieving process from when her best friend was killed in front of her when they were 10, but she’s left even more vulnerable when another best friend is shot by a police officer while they are driving home from a party one night.
I’m a little late to the game, but it’s been hard for me to read ebooks on my phone this summer, and that was the only way I had access to this wonderful novel. However, now that I’ve finally gotten the chance to settle down with it, I found myself breezing through this novel. I loved that Thomas wrote in slang; the rhythm was easy to read and definitely made the story easy to relate to.
This book is important because it is yet another reminder that people care about black lives and their voices are going to be made available to everyone, so that hopefully no one has to go through such a horrific experience alone. Writing a fictional novel this way I hope will be another door opening for people to have dialogue and come to more of an understanding about why police brutality happens and what we can do to make a difference.
Another great theme is Starr’s struggle to reconcile her life at her suburban predominantly white prep school with her life in her low-income predominantly black neighborhood. She’s created two different personas that she switches in and out of for necessity. However, even her best friends from school haven’t been privy to her home life, and don’t understand where she comes from. When her best friend is shot, she feels herself colliding with these two identities, and she no longer feels comfortable pretending to be someone she’s not. She feels like she can’t relax or express her true emotions at school, let alone with her friends. This classic coming of age trope is made so much more real by Starr’s story, a reality that many people have faced.
Thomas also made this story about the power of family and sticking up for one another. Starr talks a lot about how important her brothers are to her, and there’s an ongoing theme of Seven struggling to find his place between the two families. Starr wants Seven to feel that her family is his primary family, but Seven feels immense loyalty to his mother and sisters. Ultimately, this sub-conflict is wrapped up beautifully, with the moral being that family can look and be all different types of configurations; family doesn’t have to just be the nuclear family we are trained to believe it is. The most important part of family is that through good and bad they love each other.
This is Angie Thomas’s debut novel, and if this is her first book I’m so looking forward to what comes next from her!