I initially struggled with this book. I know that seems kind of contradictory to my previous statement. But, let me explain. I'm not naive. I knew that black people were being killed. Regularly. Consistently. And, often times by police. It's hard to hear for some sensitive ears, but it doesn't make it any less true.
I've lived in this reality all of my black life. But it wasn't near me, it wasn't tangible because I couldn't see it. Not, until the birth of a camera phone.
Technology is a necessary evil. Now, we (I) can physically see the harsh reality of these police-related deaths--it's in our face. Now, it's apart of us, apart of me. So, with that being said. I've grown somewhat desensitized to these types of deaths. I see it on TV, and on the newspaper and I groan. I think, "Not another one." It doesn't take away my anger though. I am just as angry from death to death. But it's so frequent that I think I lose connection to each story. To each life. It's sad, and I feel sort of shameful about it. But, it's true.
So when, Khalil was killed in this novel. I wasn't moved to tears, but I was bothered. It made me think about how connected I am to my community, but that's another story for another time. The point is, I thought maybe, because, I wasn't moved emotionally--that I wouldn't be able to connect with this story, in the way that I should.
BUT, I was wrong.
This story is so important--and I did connect with it, on so many levels.
Let's talk about the characters. Starr is someone I know, or someone I knew growing up. She lives in the ghetto, and she goes to a fancier school. That was me. That was my friends. That was someone I knew. It's not necessarily where she lived, it's how she lived--split between two sides of her personality, wanting to be black in most situations, but not too black in the others. If that isn't the story of my life. Especially as an adult, if my voice is a little too loud, or my verbiage a little too ethnic--I was always afraid of how it would be perceived. Not wanting to stray too far from each side of my brown faced coin. So, I related to Starr totally. I think it was this, sort of dual life, that she lived that connected her to me the most.
Her family. Boy, I loved this part of the story the most. I LOVED the family dynamic in this book. It was so homey, it was like walking in the house and smelling the hot comb on the stove, and the mac-n-cheese in the oven. I found myself unconsciously smiling multiple times reading this book. Simply because this family was so like my own--in their mannerisms and their way of life. I wasn't fortunate to have an active father in my life, but if I did--I'd want him to be like Starr's dad, Maverick. I could go on and on about the family--but, what I will say, is that, it is so integral to this story--and so very well done. Thank you, Angie--for creating this well-rounded and put together family. That no one can call the Huxtibles, but, one that no one can say, is not a "real family." I was worried.
The friends--Okay, I'm going to just briefly touch on this, but there are friends like Hailey in this world. Beautifully naive, and ignorant. I pity these types of people--and that's all I'll say. I was happy to have the dynamic anyway. Starr had friends from every playing field, and it made the story well-rounded.
Chris. He was so necessary. His character was necessary. Essential.
I don't want to say too much, because I want everyone to experience these characters and this story for themselves, but he was so necessary.
What I hope and pray for is that people read this story from a completely objective standpoint. Don't go into it with any preconceived notions. Understand that this story is important, and that to someone, somewhere--this is their reality. Be willing to understand it, be willing to listen. (I know it's a book, but you get my drift.)
I really don't want to make this review any longer than it is, but I can't say it enough about how powerful, and how important--and again, timely it is. This book is a stunning and poignant debut--that has the makings of necessary reading in any school. This is a great novel, that is well written while being completely down to earth, and relatable. Not only was it easy to read, and easy for me to relate to, on a personal level. I think even those so far outside of "this," type of story or lifestyle--will easily relate, or at least empathize. If you haven't picked up on it yet, this is must read--for any age, and any walk of life.
Well done, Angie, well done.