I hate to stay a timely piece. I feel that because a book like this has never NOT been timely. Perhaps its impact is potentially more grand because of the current cultural narrative. Regardless, I felt this book was everything it was meant to be.
One of my favorite scenes in the book is one Kathryn H. referred to – when Starr, Seven, DeVante, and Chris are leaving the riots in the car. The conversation on names and race was one that I felt so delicately touched on the idea of the spectrum of racism. Chris is carefully constructed as a slightly awkward white guy with a level of caring for Starr that I just found so sweet. So when he asks about why black people don’t have “normal” names, was it awkward? Sure largely because he asked it as gracefully as a dump truck on ice. But was it racist? Kind of, yea…but Starr, Seven, and DeVante go on tell him why that question is grounded in his perceptions of race and answer his question. It was this little nugget of truth that was handled so well.
Starr was developed as this wonderful combination of strength and fear and morals and flaws and somehow done so with maintaining that she was above all a teenager. I felt that the YA genre was a perfect place for this book. Not only because it could serve as a message to the youth reading the book, but because it allowed a very interesting vantage point for so many who are white or grew up in very different circumstances – regardless of the age of the reader. Starr ends up in so many harrowing situations throughout her young life, but her struggles with her friends, budding love, and her annoying little brother are always strong sideline stories. In doing so, the book really drives home this notion that we are all the same – our families are our cornerstones, our friends can be DRAAAMMA, and Cheetos and Mac n’ Cheese are the shit. While those storylines seem like page fillers, I think they are one of the most important points. We are all the same. It is how we treat one another that is different.