This isn’t going to be a critical review. I devoured this 488 page book by Angie Thomas in less than 24 hours. True story. To say I’m obsessed would be an understatement.
It was perfect. Each character was such an individual. If there’s a way to my literary heart, it’s well developed characters. The dialogue was incredibly well done and realistic, the plot heart wrenching, and the narrator spoke in such a clear voice I could hear her in my mind.
It was about race, family, community, faith, forgiveness, and discovering how to balance the different sides of yourself, and own up to your own actions and inactions in a real and honest way. Trying to balance the different sides of yourself is a universal struggle, but the protagonist Starr is in an entirely different circumstance. If she isn’t constantly guarded, the her classmates will relegate her to one of many stereotypes people of color have to deal with daily.
Starr’s struggles opened my eyes quite a bit. Its one thing to talk the talk, but quite another to walk the walk. While I’ve always considered myself an ally, I have not been using my voice to speak up when others are being silenced. Starr’s story, though fictional, has inspired me to be an ally of action instead of silence.
One of the best ways we can learn is to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Fiction can open that door for us, and let outsiders glimpse just a little bit of what someone else’s life is like. Once you’ve felt your heart pound for Starr every time she glimpses a police officer, you feel a deeper empathy than ever for anyone else who feels the same in their real life, and not just in the pages of a book. I feel as though this should be required reading for so many reasons, one of which to encourage empathy and show privileged people how privileged they are in a non-abrasive way, but also to illustrate the struggle all teens have of finding who they are and where their voice belongs. While dealing with huge social justice issues, Starr is also struggling with her boyfriend, her family, and finding her place in the world. These universal themes show how teens often don’t only just deal with teen stuff or just grown-up stuff, but have to instead deal with it simultaneously. Which is really just another reason to treat everyone you encounter with kindness, regardless of their age or anything else. Just love, people. Just love.
After reading the book, of course I had to see the movie version! I thought the director did an amazing job of staying true to the tone and theme of the book while also successfully adapting it for the screen. Although changes obviously had to be made, as they always are, they were clearly carefully considered so that the course of the characters stayed genuine and true to the novel. Some characters didn’t make the cut to the screen, which was a little disappointing for me since I’m so fond of almost all of the characters. There were also some artistic changes at the end to give you the same jarring shock that the list of names in the book gives. The fact that there was a bit of a twist I wasn’t expecting kept me on my toes and not assuming I’d know automatically how everything ended.
There was only one aspect of the film I didn’t like, which was a change from a small plot point in the book. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but it was a symbolic moment in the book I appreciated that the movie not only skipped, but changed the tone of. I’ll address it in the comments IF anyone wants to discuss further, so that this post remains spoiler free in the actual post.
Have you read the book or seen the film? How did it affect you?