Genre: YA, Contemporary
My rating: 5/5
Recommended for: Every single person on Earth, especially Indonesians who think ‘the majority’ needs to come first than ‘the minority’
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Khalil died in Starr’s arms. The bullets from the cop’s gun pierced through his body and stopped his heart, all because the police officer, someone whose job is to protect them, thought Khalil’s hairbrush was a gun. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s happened time and again, and that’s the reality. Between keeping her family’s safety and making sure justice was served, Starr had to make a decision.
“Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.”
Where do I even start talking about how great this book is? I started it this morning and consumed it the whole day. I had to stop a few times because it got too real, but I finally finished it just now and I’m still in awe.
The book is written in the voice of Starr Carter, the cool black kid in a sea of rich, white students at a very fancy suburban prep school forty-five minutes away from her home in a poor neighborhood. I think this is the biggest factor of what makes this book so personal – Thomas succeeded in bringing a broken-hearted, scared, and confused sixteen-year-old girl into life. Reading THUG feels like reading a diary – no, listening to a friend? – no, it feels like being inside of Starr’s head. We’re angry, we’re sad, and we’re happy together with her.
When she’s at school, she has a different persona with when she’s at home. At Williamson, she’s posh, and talks like everybody else – no swear words, no slangs. It’s almost like her two best friends don’t even know her. They haven’t even been to her house for years, now. That’s why she keeps Khalil’s death as a secret from them. But the entire school hears about the case, and even though (or because?) they don’t know she witnessed the very incident everyone is talking about, the difference between them starts showing up, and forces her to see the truth about her friends and their friendship.
At home, she also has to make a decision on whether or not she wants to talk about what happened. She wants to keep her family safe, but she also feels the responsibility to bring justice to Khalil, his family, and their neighborhood. She can’t let the media talk about Khalil as if his death is justified, and that the police officer who killed him is innocent. She knows her family has her back, but it’s not easy when someone powerful in the community wants to bring an end to them – violently.
To be honest, I don’t think I can ever write a review adequate enough to tell you how amazing this book is. It talks about police brutality from the side of the victim and the witness, something I don’t often see from the mainstream media. I like how it emphasizes on family and how the main character and her family are very close – it’s like a breath of fresh air from the many other YA books I have read previously.
“Brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared, Starr. It means you go on even though you’re scared. And you’re doing that.”
As it happens, my country is facing a particularly tough situation where a hard-working man is thrown into jail because of some hardline fanatics who claim they want the best for the ‘majority’. Yeah, true story. The reality this book brings hits way too close to home, but it sparks a fire in me. It reminds me that it’s important to fight for what is right, even though it looks like the world doesn’t care. It reminds me to be brave. It reminds me to take action.
Man, nothing I can say is enough. Just please read the book. I don’t care if you’re a teenager, or a parent, or a teacher, or Donald Trump – go to the bookstore and purchase this book. Thank me later.
- The book’s ability to make you bawl your eyes out, and also laugh your butts off
- Chris the adorable white boyfriend being in the midst of a riot in a black neighborhood and realizing for the first time this is how it is for Starr at school
- Family! Especially Seven. The boy’s a wonder.