Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.


5 brave Starrs


I kept seeing this book everywhere. It was making the buzz featuring a very hot topic: young black people being shot by police officers while unarmed.

My curiosity reached maximum level and when I was visiting Denver I made my mission to drag my family to Tattered Bookstore just to find this title.

Mission accomplished plus some other books in my bag and a grumpy husband as I spent way too much time in a bookstore.


 I dove right into it and …feared the worst.


The first pages were disappointing. I won’t sugarcoat it but reading about Starr being at Big D party and reading about her “nearly” sister Kenya and their friend talking all Garden Heights did nothing for me. I really expected to read something stereotypical till the end of the book.


Then the killing happened and my interest was picked.


But I really fell into it once things got really complicated for Starr. Now I can say I loved this book as the vast majority of readers. What I really praise the author for was to make ME see, me white woman, the reality of many minorities.


This was Starr’s story.

How she struggled to maintain dual personality: one at home in Garden Heights with some slang and typical food and the one at her “white people” school well behaved, following others, etc. It must have been exhausting and confusing for Starr. Who was she really?


The book also featured the difficulties of dating outside your expected “pool”. Starr is dating “white” Chris and she can’t help noticing other people looking their way when they’re walking on the street. He should be with a white, blonde and rich girl. Not with black and poor Starr.

For every doubt Starr had about their relationship Chris made it with his unwavering love and determination to show her how incredible he was. Praise for Chris as he did not have one preconceived thought about Starr and he stood his ground. He wanted Starr and no one else! How he’ll show his support and determination in the end!


This is also about courage and finding your voice. Starr has witnessed something traumatizing. Her childhood friend was killed under her eyes when he did nothing wrong. She’s been threatened as well. She now fears those meant to protect people. Police officers did not play a good role in this story neither did the “white justice”. Starr was the sole witness but telling the truth was dangerous for her and her family. What would I do being in her shoes? Would I be brave and honor my friend’s memory asking justice? Risking my life and my family’s security? Would I stay silent to protect those I love? But then how would I live with a guilty conscience?

““That’s why people are speaking out, huh? Because it won’t change if we don’t say something?” “Exactly. We can’t be silent.”


Starr does not think she is brave as she is frightened. What her parents tell her is being brave is not being fearless but doing the right thing even when we are frightened.

“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scarred, Starr, ”she says. “It means you go on even though you’re scarred. And you’re doing that.”


It also shows how people can support others uniting against a common threat. I don’t speak here about the riots and destruction or…well that too. But about the help Starr’s dad will get by the end when something dreadful happened.


Of course this is about injustice as well as the main topic revolves around killing unarmed black people as police officers fear them. It also is about sweeping  it under the rug and trying to put the blame on the victim.

“Whoa, wait a second,” Momma says. “Are y’all putting Khalil and Starrr on trial or the cop who killed him?”

 The roots of the problem are fear. “White” people have preconceived ideas about poor black people (and that could be any minority really) that make them perceive these people as threat. Once the fear is present accidents happen or even deliberate shootings.

When you have desperate poor people kept in poverty as they only are offered menial and underpaid jobs these people get angry. It does not ask for much to ignite a spark and have the powder keg explode.


So this book was dense in his topics as we can add gang wars, reasons to sell drugs, people behind the numbers, etc. but it was written with mastery as it was real and never too much.

Starr felt real, true to many black teenagers. She took me by the hand and made me follow her in every ordeal she experienced.


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