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message 1: by Bonnie G. (last edited Nov 30, 2018 01:21PM) (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1284 comments Mod
I read this book well over a year ago, but refreshed my recollection by seeing the movie a couple weeks back (It is excellent, not technically-the continuity errors are legion-but the performances were wonderful and it told its story very well. I cried like a baby throughout and I am not a cryer!) I looked at my review today. It was a 4-star, which accurately reflects my feelings, but it dwells on what I didn't like about the book rather than the things I did like and the things I actually loved.

To me the book told a very true story. I know young people like Starr, pulled in different directions by her life experience and her respect for those POC who came before and her culture on the one hand, and the need/desire to blend in to environments populated mostly by whites with a culture built around the traditions of a certain subsection of whites on the other. Code switching every day is exhausting but doable, but what happens when when its not just code switching? What happens when people around you show their true faces and their true faces tell you that they value your life and the lives of those in the black community less than their own? Perhaps this is unconscious, but its still true. How does that impact your choices, your behavior. These are big considerations for a teenager.

This is a heartbreaking story, Not just because of what happened to Khalil, but because of what happened to Starr, and to everyone around her. Angie Thomas nails that pain, and she doesn't resort to easy ploys to do it. The whites here, including the cop, were not cross-burning MAGA hat wearing alt-right people. The story is better, and the messaging to me, the (white) reader more effective when I am forced to examine my internal monologue. The cop would have likely yelled out a number of warnings before shooting if Khalil had been white, the media would not have sought out ways to make Khalil's murder justifiable in the eyes of the white public. Do I excuse things that way, do I justify the unjustifiable when black men are killed? Are my friendships with black people predicated on them "acting white" and subordinating their lived experience to mine? These are questions the book forces us to ask ourselves and they are good questions. Also worth noting, the book is really well put together. I liked this story, I loved this family and their friends and extended family.

My issues with the book are my own. I am not a regular YA reader and what I don't like about YA is what I didn't like about this book. That is to say, Angie Davis wrote a 5-star YA book, this reader just is not a YA kinda girl.

I read the book because I was very interested in how anyone could explain to mostly white teens in a developmentally appropriate way the complexities of relations between the police and the African American community. Again, Thomas did an exceptional job, and I tip my hat. That said, there was a lot of oversimplification of other characters in order to let the reader focus on Starr's story without having to think about grey areas. Khalil's hoodlum with a heart of gold story was very socially responsible Lifetime movie. Davonte could have been interesting if Thomas wasn't so focused on making a point about how gangstas are victims of circumstance and all they need is a stable family and not a jail cell. There are elements of truth there, but the whole story is more complex and subtle that what is on the page.

For me what I liked and admired far outweighed my issues. This is a good an important read.


message 2: by Carolina (new)

Carolina Poli (carolina_poli) This book broke my heart and it made me think and examine prejudice around me and within. Sure, we all say we’re not racists but when black man and a white one walk closer to me on a dark street, do I react differently? Probably. When a kid asks me for money at a stop light, does it matter what color he is? Society is constructed in a way that white people have had the advantage of the upper hand and most of the time we don’t realize it is so, or even think about it. So it’s good that this book made think.
As a story, it’s very effective. The characters can be a bit simplistic but the entire plot is nicely done and the writing is engaging. As I read, I thought, well done, Angie Thomas.


message 3: by CDB (new)

CDB | 43 comments I loved it. I haven't seen the movie yet, but hope to over my winter break (13 days and counting!).

One of the things I thought Angie Thomas did SO skillfully was show the way in which Starr experienced life at her private school and the impact it had on her to be a black person that environment. For example, the microaggressions of her white BFF that she realized added up over time to actually be clearly racist.

I also really admire how this book has transcended YA, and become another way for people to reflect on and talk about the realities of police brutality and racism. We need it.


message 4: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1284 comments Mod
We do need the language for this discussion. I actually think the movie was even better that the book about starting and structuring this coversation.


message 5: by Alicia (new)

Alicia (thebeeka) | 42 comments I think you covered just about all of my thoughts, Bonnie.

I didn't really care for a lot of the changes that the filmmakers made but I still really liked the performances and the movie as a whole.


message 6: by Sara (new)

Sara | 99 comments I also read this awhile ago, so I went back to my review and found that I didn't have many words for it then, only five stars. I think the experience of reading it is important; reading about it doesn't do it justice. Starr is such a well-drawn, relate-able character, regardless of whether the reader's own life matches hers in any way. The story is as real as it gets, not paint-by-numbers, and it balances the serious subject with humor and fun. The message about showing up and speaking out was my biggest takeaway.

I haven't seen the movie yet (my movie-going frequency has really taken a dive this year) but I look forward to seeing that interpretation.


message 7: by CDB (new)

CDB | 43 comments Totally agree with your first paragraph, Sara! Well said.


message 8: by Kris (new)

Kris | 252 comments Mod
Bonnie pretty much covered what I felt about this book. I’ve been swamped at work, and keep meaning to come here and post! Here’s a cut and paste of my review:

It's hard to adequately sum up my feelings and reactions to reading this book. As a white person, and a person who is privileged - college educated, white collar job, secure upper middle class - I feel motivated by this book to become more active and vocal. But, I am currently at a loss as to what voice I have and how I can be an advocate and an ally, and be taken seriously. Or maybe that's not the point. I read a book earlier this year that really made me take a hard look at my biases, and I am committed to continuing to do that, and to recognizing and challenging what myself and others put out there. When you know better, do better, right?

I can read and acknowledge the vast difference in experience between myself and Starr, but I can never actually understand what it's like to live Starr's life. I never want to pity or undermine anyone. I want to lift up, educate, honor, and appreciate. I am committed to challenging the status quo.

This book allowed me a glimpse of life that is a substantial part of my culture. It made me sad and mad. Outraged, in fact. And it made me take a look at those parts of myself that make assumptions about motivations and what the media tells us is the "truth."

I'm grateful to have read this book.

** As an addendum, it was suggested that I read Waking Up White, and I have added it to my list.


message 9: by Bonnie G. (new)

Bonnie G. (narshkite) | 1284 comments Mod
For those of you who enjoyed this read, I just read On the Come Up and I think you will like this one too. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


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