I knew going into this book that it was not only VERY hyped all over bookish social media, but that it was hyped specifically because it is an important book with content to shout about from the rooftops. Having now read it I can say that this is absolutely true in my opinion. This book matters so much. It is not ashamed or afraid to be about the Black Lives Matter movement, it is focused on that movement and not on a YA romance. I will say that since the MC is a junior in high school there is a bit of cute boyfriend/girlfriend stuff… But even that aspect is a bit more than just the romance, because it also touches on Starr and Chris’ differences and why they are able to have such a strong relationship despite the odds stacked against them.
In fact every relationship in this book manages to be fleshed out without much time to do so. It’s impressive because there are so many things happening already, with Starr’s hearings & interviews, her family trying to support her but also stay safe, her family also going through some big changes, and her just trying to cope with what she witnessed happened to someone she cared about very much. But even through all that, Starr’s relationship with her friends and community members from Garden Heights, her white friends from her high school, and her closest family members all have their own nature & nuances.
Besides the fact that this is important as far as representation in YA literature goes, I think the other very important aspect of this book is the point of view. It was a smart choice on the author’s part to tell this story specifically through the eyes of the witness/survivor. A lot of things I had never ever considered before were brought to my attention because of this book. What Starr had to go through emotionally by losing her dear friend, the racial injustices the law enforcement/judicial systems perpetuate, how Starr’s view on life and the people around her drastically changes, her subsequent fear of the world, the threats she receives… and that’s just a few of the things the author sheds light on.
No only is it an important story, it also is an emotional one. I rarely actually cry when reading books. But this hit me so hard. There were several instances where I felt like I had been punched. I would literally gasp and feel it in my heart, and could not help but cry. And not just because of the story or the instances, but the way the characters describe the wrong done to them. The writing itself is very personal – as it should be! This is a very personal story by nature! You get to know Starr very well, and her opinions and her family & friends’ opinions are made very clear and are… well, personal.
This is one of the easiest 5 stars I have ever given to a book. I highly recommend it not just for its message, but also because it is a book with some serious goddamn quality.