Most of the time, Starr Carter feels like she’s two people – Williamson Starr and Garden Heights Starr. Williamson prep school Starr is cool, quiet, and has to be careful not to swear too much or use too much slang. At home in Garden Heights Starr has to be careful not to act like she’s too cool – or too good – for her home, her family, and her friends in the hood. Only thing that’s the same between both worlds is her sweet collection of Jordans and her love of Fresh Prince. Most of the time it works out – when you go to a fancy prep school 45 minutes away, mostly people just know you as Big Mav’s daughter who works in his grocery store.
When Starr runs into her childhood best friend Khalil at Big D’s annual spring break party, she hasn’t seen him for months, so she doesn’t know that his grandma has cancer or why he’s got brand-new Jordans and diamonds in his ears, although she can guess. Still, when gunshots break up the party, Khalil gives Starr a ride back to her dad’s store. When they’re pulled over for a broken taillight, all Starr can think about is doing exactly what she’s told and keeping her hands visible while the officer pulls Khalil out of the car and tells him to wait. Until Khalil opens the car door to check on Starr and is shot – by the officer that pulled them over.
Now Starr has a new identity – as the girl who was in the car when Khalil was killed.
This incredible book was devastating, heartbreaking, and one of the most eye opening experiences I’ve ever had with ink on paper. Through Starr’s grief, anger, fear, terror of retribution from both the police and the drug lords, struggle to reconcile her fierce love of her Uncle Carlos, a police officer, with what happened to her and to Khalil, the riots and protests in her neighborhood and at her school, her decision to be a witness and speak out and up for the Khalil she knew, not the Khalil on the news, the grand jury hearing, and the final decision about what really happened that night, this book takes you through the life of one girl whose whole world is exploded in the space of seconds. Nothing I can write about it will do justice to the power of the words in this story so I’m going to share a little of what Starr has to say –
“I’m sick of this! Just like y’all think all of us are bad because of some people, we think the same about y’all. Until you give us a reason to think otherwise, we’ll keep protesting.”
At its heart, this is a book about family, friendships, and community, and what we’ll do to protect and stand up for the people we love. Timely, important, gritty, real, and guaranteed to make you think no matter where you grew up, everyone should take a walk in Starr’s Jordans.