"Pop. A shot rings out. I duck."
"Pop. A second shot."
It was Big D's spring break party. Starr wasn't sure she belonged there but she came anyway to see the kids from the neighborhood. These are the kids she had grown up with and gone to school with until her parents decided to send her to Williamson Prep with the white kids.
Khalil grabs her hand and pulls her out of the place. They make a run for it as cars speed away into the night. Khalil's car is a green Impala. It's nice. Not too flashy. Not like some guys.
They're on their way home talking to each other as though they have seen each other every day when out of nowhere comes the whoop-whoop sound and they see the blue lights right behind them. Starr and Khalil have both had the talk..they know to keep their hands in full view. License and registration come first. Khalil complies. He knows the drill. But it won't be more than five minutes and, "Pop. Pop. Pop." Khalil is dead and Starr is the only witness.
What's it like to grow up in the neighborhood where selling drugs can buy your grandmother some medicine to fight her cancer but the gang lords that come with it know they create the rules and everyone follows the rules or they won't live to see the next hour.
Starr is caught in two worlds. Her father found himself in prison years back and he was missing his children's lives. He made a decision right then to give up the world of the being a King Lord. Instead he opened a store in the neighborhood and makes a good living. His children go to Williamson Prep and that's where Starr has to keep the "black girl" side of herself under control
This is the story of a young black girl who has been captured by the systems. There is the world of the King Lords with King who throws his lady love around enough to break her bones with a predictable frequency. There is the world of the courts and the police who don't want to hear what Starr has to tell them about Khalil, the drug dealer, and how he was murdered in cold blood.
This is the insider's view of life in the 'hood with the rhythm of the language, the difficult choices, the struggle to get away from the drug culture. Starr is going to testify before the grand jury. Will they find enough evidence in what she has to say to bring the police officer to trial? Will Khalil's life matter? Or is the fact that he was a drug dealer enough to erase his worth as a human being?
Kids with the same mother but not the same father, domestic violence, guns blazing daily, drug lords cruising their territories, young women seeing their self-worth only in their sexuality and attractiveness are the building blocks of one side of the street. A mom who works at the neighborhood clinic, a dad who fought the system, an aunt who is a surgeon and an uncle who is a detective, homework and Jordan kicks are the flip side.
This dynamite, visceral story offers up the pain and rage that create the foundation for the Black Lives Matter movement. An important and necessary addition to the library and bookstore shelves. This is a story that needs to be told, needs to be read aloud and need to be caught in the spotlight so no one can say they didn't know.
450 pages Ages 14 and up (violence, domestic abuse, drug culture, language) 978-0062498533
Recommended by: Barb Langridge, abookandahug.com
Sequel: On the Come Up to be published February 2019
Editor's Note: This book is the winner of the 2018 Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards in the Teen category.