Starr Carter doesn’t really want to be at the Garden Heights party, but her friend Kenya pressures her into tagging along. Luckily, her old friend Khalil is there to take her mind off of how uncomfortable she is. When shots ring out in the distance (a regular occurence in their low-income community), Khalil and Starr take off in his car. A night of near-misses turns into a nightmare when Khalil and Starr are pulled over by a white cop; Khalil, sensing that Starr is frightened, leans into the car to check on her and is shot, over and over, by the police officer. In the days and weeks that follow, multiple voices ring out with their opinions of Khalil’s death. Some people say that he was a gang-banger and a drug-dealer, but Starr only remembers the little boy who was her best friend. Tensions rise in Starr’s community, but the news of Khalil’s death has little impact on her elite (mostly white) private-school friends. Starr feels torn between two worlds: the world of Garden Heights, where gang violence and poverty is the norm but the people in the community still work together for a better future; and the outside world, where white police officers who shoot unarmed black teens are seen as sympathetic by a biased media.
Starr’s story really begins when she decides to speak out about Khalil’s death and the circumstances surrounding the shooting. She testifies before a grand-jury and gives an interview on television. When her interview airs, Starr and her family face pressure from a local gang-lord for Starr’s “dry-snitching.” As tensions rise at home, Starr worries more and more that her speaking out will result in further violence in her neighborhood. Despite her fears, Starr refuses to be silenced. She raises her voice and remembers her friend for who he truly was: a caring young man who went to great lengths to take care of his family.
Angie Thomas’ best-selling young adult novel is heart-rending, tear-jerking, and truly beautiful. Set in the present-day, this book is perfectly appropriate for the nation’s current atmosphere of distrust between black communities and the police officers that serve them. Especially interesting is Khalil’s meditation on Tupac Shakur’s T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E. and what it means to low-income, majority black communities.
For readers who enjoyed Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely’s All American Boys and Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, this book inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement will make you cry, make you laugh, and make you think.
Get ready, readers! Our next book club pick is the young adult novel All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.
If you have any concerns/questions/thoughts about the book or the heavy themes that come up in it, please see your friendly neighborhood librarian with your questions and comments.
The date of our next Creek Reads Book Club meeting is still TBD, but it will take place at the end of January, so mark your calendars! Attendance will again be limited to 20 students and we will be joined by Mrs. Hanley and Ms. Gaffney for our discussion.
When Rashad walks into the corner store for a bag of chips, he doesn’t think that the consequences of this action will result in anything more than “chip-breath,” so he plans on buying a pack of gum, too. After all, he can’t have chip-breath when he dances with his crush at a party later that night. But Rashad doesn’t make it to the party. A suspicious store-owner, a klutzy lady, and a fist-happy cop land Rashad in the hospital with a broken nose, broken ribs, and internal bleeding.
Quinn, a white teen who goes to school and plays basketball with Rashad, witnesses his friend’s brother, police officer Paul Galuzzi, dragging Rashad out of the corner store and wailing on him, despite the fact that Rashad is already handcuffed. Unable to look away, yet unable to do anything to stop the violence, Quinn watches helplessly as Paul hits Rashad again and again.
Now, Rashad is in the hospital, wondering why he was never allowed to explain that he wasn’t trying to steal a bag of chips and trying to figure out how he’s going to move forward. Quinn is confused about where his allegiances lie, as Paul helped raise him and the Galuzzis are like family, but he’s sure that Rashad would never do anything to deserve a beat-down like the one Paul gave him. The basketball team is splitting along color lines as the students of color side with Rashad and the white students side with Paul – or decide not to take a stance at all. Their whole town is starting to take sides when a video of Rashad’s arrest ends up online and the hashtag #RashadIsAbsentToday goes viral.
At the center of it all, in alternating chapters, Rashad and Quinn struggle with the ultimate question: what now? How can these two teens, so alike and yet so different, come to terms with what happened? How can they possibly make a difference? Who is the “All-American Boy?” Who can you trust, if not the police? What does racism look like in America today? Are you guilty if you do nothing to help?
This book is perfect in every way. By telling the story from Rashad’s and Quinn’s points of view, it allows the reader to approach the problem of police brutality and racism from two sides: the victim and the bystander. When it comes down to it, don’t most of us fall into one of these two camps? This is a question that authors Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely raise with this novel: if you are not one of the oppressed, and you do nothing to help those who are oppressed, does that mean that you are on the side of the oppressor? While this book may be difficult for some people to read, it is well worth the sadness and pain in order to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This book is timely, well-written, and will surely ignite the necessary discussions that we must have in order to address the national epidemic of racial profiling and police brutality. I would highly suggest this book to anyone, especially those who are struggling to understand their place in the national conversation about police brutality.
Willowdean Dickson, or “Dumplin,” as her mom calls her, is a self-proclaimed fat-girl and Dolly Parton fan. She and her mother live in Texas, the land of beauty pageants and greasy fast-food places. Willowdean is much more into the fast-food scene, working at Harpy’s alongside brooding hottie Bo. Her mom, a former beauty queen, is all about the Miss Clover City beauty pageant, allowing it to take over their home and her life as it draws near.
Everything seems peachy for Willowdean until she and Bo begin a secret relationship. Suddenly, Will can’t stand the way her body looks and feels, and her trademark confidence takes a major nose-dive. In order to show herself and her mom that she’s just as worthy as the skinny-minnies who enter the Miss Clover City pageant, Will signs up, and accidentally brings some new friends along with her. Willowdean doesn’t mean to start a revolution, but she sure has one on her hands when people find out that she is going to compete for the crown. Can she keep her cool and gain back her confidence?
One thing that is really excellent about this book is how honest Willowdean is about how she views her body. Most days, she is perfectly comfortable with being the “fat-girl” in the room. If you were to ask her about her bathing-suit body, she would say, “Do you have a body? Put a swimsuit on it.” (Love the original artwork by Simini Blocker!)
However, Willowdean has just a complicated relationship with her body as she does with the mysterious Harpy’s hunk, Bo. When Will’s and Bo’s relationship gets more physical, Willowdean’s confidence starts to crack and crumble right before the reader’s eyes. The way Willowdean deals with her self-consciousness is so real and heart-breaking; she not only begins to doubt herself and her own worth, but she also sabotages her relationships with the people closest to her.
Luckily, this book has an imperfect happy ending, not because it could have been written better, but because people are imperfect, Willowdean is imperfect, and the book is a realistic portrayal of real life, which is imperfect, whether you’re fat or skinny or in between.
Fans of Julie Murphy’s debut novel, Side Effects May Vary, John Green’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park will love this new novel. Come down to the library to check it out today!
Here’s a new twist on the old dystopian society trend in young adult literature! 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger is set in 2054, when boys outnumber girls by a ratio of 5 to 1, making girls a precious commodity in India (where female infantacide is a real problem, BTW). In the fictional walled-off city of Koyanagar, boys must compete in the Test for the chance to marry one of the few girls of marrying age each year. They compete in tests of skill, athleticism, and knowledge, and in return receive rocks from the eligible young lady. The boy with the most rocks gets the girl and, hopefully, is able to produce another girl from their marriage. Sudasa, one of the two main characters, is seventeen years old and her time for marriage has arrived. She has no choice in the matter, other than which of the five masked boys before her she might choose to be her husband. She knows that she should be obedient to her grandmother’s wishes and marry the boy who is obviously from a good family, a boy who will give her daughters and maker her life comfortable. But Sudasa is disgusted with the entire Test, with Koyanagar, with her grandmother. Sudasa’s name might mean obedient, but she wants only to rebel.
Kiran, the other main character, is a farm boy from the coast of Koyanagar who has been chosen as one of Sudasa’s five “suitors.” Like Sudasa, he is also disenchanted with the Test, but then, none of the boys are looking forward to the competition. After all, there is only one winner, and the losers are forced to live a life without marriage, companionship, fatherhood. Or worse, they are sent to the walls that surround Koyanagar, supposedly to keep the people from the old country from breaching the walls in an effort to get at the resources (coal, food, water, girls) inside the city. Kiran knows that he can’t win his Test, but he doesn’t care. He has other plans, to break out of the city and go in search of his missing mother. All he needs to do is remain unnoticed until the Choosing Ceremony and he’ll be free to run… until Sudasa starts to notice him. Can these two helpless teens, swept up in the mistakes of their ancestors and forced to suffer the consequences of hundreds of years of greed and short-sightedness, help each other escape the vicious cycle? Or will scheming family members, state-sanctioned killings, and indecision each play their roles to stop these teens who just want to be free to love, or not love, as they wish?
This book has a lot of great stuff going for it: interesting concept, cool setting, likable characters, easy to read. Sudasa’s chapters are written in verse and Kiran’s chapters are in prose, which makes the book a quick read and makes it easy to distinguish between the two characters. The very thinly-veiled pro-life message in the book might be off-putting for some, but the book’s basis in reality will certainly bring more attention to the problem of female infantacide and gender selective abortion in India. This book will get readers thinking about stereotypical gender roles, how women and men are treated by the opposite gender, and how these trends might evolve in the future. All in all, this a great book if you’re looking for a quick read with a new twist on the dystopian trend. Fans of Sold by Patricia McCormick, Koyal Dark and Mango Sweet by Kashmira Sheth, and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood might enjoy this little book.