Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
The book begins with a spring break party in the bad neighborhood of Garden Heights. Starr Carter is 16 and feels out of place at the party that is full of weed. A girl named Kenya convinced her to go to the party. They are both related to Seven Seven’s father is Starr’s father, and Seven’s mother is Kenya’s mother. Starr goes to a mostly white school called Williamson Prep. Kenya puts guilt on Starr by saying she was acting white and Starr decides to go. Starr isn’t comfortable at all. She sees her close childhood friend Khalil and they start talking and she feels better. There are gunshots and Khalil takes Starr to his car. Kenya is okay. They’re driving and Khalil gets pulled over. Starr was told by her parents to stay calm. Khalil is asked to get out and the cop tells him not to move. He reaches down to see if Starr is okay and gets shot three times. Starr is terrified and gets nauseous and her parents take her home. Finally, Starr falls asleep, but gets nightmares.
The next day, she goes to the kitchen, where her parents and Seven are eating. Starr lives in her grandma’s old house that they got after her grandmother moved in with Starr’s Uncle Carlos in the suburbs. Seven lives with his dad King, King’s girlfriend Lesha, and Kenya and their sister Lyric. When Starr enters the kitchen, Seven and her father are talking about how King is physically abusive to Iesha, Kenya and Lyric. Seven brings up the elephant in the room — Khalil’s death — and the three try to console Starr. They decide not to tell anyone, not even Starr’s younger brother Sekani, that Starr was present at the shooting.
To keep Starr busy, her father takes her to the small grocery store that he owns. Starr helps her father sell groceries to the regulars, including Mr. Lewis, a cantankerous old man who angers Starr by being flippant about Khalil’s death. Kenya enters the store, and Starr’s father gives the girls money to buy lunch at Reuben’s, a deli across the street. Kenya asks Starr why she is being so quiet, but Starr doesn’t tell her that she saw Khalil get shot. After eating, the two girls walk outside as King, Kenya and Seven’s father, pulls up in a BMW. He tries to act familiar with Starr and offers her money for the lunch, but Starr isn’t interested; she knows that King is involved in gang business and abusive towards his girlfriend and children. Starr’s father approaches the BMW to talk to King. King argues that Starr’s father owes him a favor, since he helped him buy his grocery store; but Starr’s father points out that since he helped keep King out of prison, the two men are even. He warns King not to touch Seven again, and King drives away angrily.