Starr wakes up on the day of the grand jury to find her kitchen filled with Cedar Grove King Lords. She brings a plate of food out to Maverick and Carlos, who are sitting in the back of Maverick’s Tahoe. The two men have talked to each and made up for Starr’s sake.
The King Lords drive with Starr and her family to the courthouse. Not only is Starr nervous about the trial, but the courthouse also brings back memories of her father’s conviction and imprisonment. Starr’s parents comfort her in the moments before she has to enter the jury room, reassuring her that she is brave for doing exactly what she’s afraid of. In the grand jury, the DA questions Starr about the night of the events. Starr finds the experience painful, but knows that she has to do what she can to bring Khalil justice.
Chapter 20 is set eight weeks after Khalil’s death. It’s been two weeks since Starr talked to the grand jury, and she and her family and community are on edge. At school, Hailey confronts Starr with a picture from her twelfth birthday party: Khalil is in the shot, meaning that Starr lied to Hailey about knowing him. Maya and Starr try to get Hailey to apologize for her racist comments, but she refuses, going as far as to say that the officer did everyone a favor by killing a drug dealer.
Starr loses her temper and attacks Hailey, punching and kicking her. Hailey fights back, and when Hailey’s older brother Remy calls Starr a crazy bitch, Seven appears and pushes Remy away. Two security guards break up the fight, and all four are suspended for three days. Lisa picks up Starr and Seven and takes them home; Starr has an outburst of rage in the car, pounding the dashboard in frustration over the pain that Khalil’s death has brought her.
Back at home, Lisa, Starr, and Seven find Maverick talking to a group of King Lords and Garden Disciples in the kitchen. He points out that even if the jury fails to indict Officer Cruise, the gangs have to stop riots from occurring again because they get out of hand and hurt the black community. Maverick even gets Goon, a King Lord, to shake hands with a Garden Disciple, marking the beginning of a form of unity in Garden Heights. He and Lisa decide not to punish Seven and Starr for the fight, knowing that they probably would have lashed out themselves if they were in their children’s place.
Chapter 21 takes place two weeks later, on a Saturday. Starr’s family, her friends, and Seven’s friends are all at Carlos’s house for Seven’s birthday party, which doubles as a graduation party since he graduated from high school on Friday. Starr is nervous about whether she should act “white” or “black” since DeVante, Kenya, Maya, and Chris are all at the party, but is relieved when the five have a warm, joking conversation.
Starr’s family leads a group dance party. Eventually, Starr heads inside to get something to eat, but the phone starts ringing—Iesha is at the gate, wanting to be let in. Seven, Kenya, Starr, Lisa, and Maverick walk to meet her. Iesha confronts Seven about not inviting her to the party, but Seven angrily replies that Iesha has been a bad mother to him, not even bothering to show up to his graduation. He accuses Iesha of never loving him the way that he loved her. Before driving away, an irate Iesha warns Maverick that King will hurt his family because Starr implicated him during her interview.
Back inside, Kenya apologizes to Starr for Iesha's threat. Starr says that she emphasizes with Iesha, knowing from her fear of speaking up about Khalil that it can be difficult to stand up for oneself. She tells Kenya to encourage Iesha to take a stand, but Kenya is doubtful. The two girls head to the backyard, where Maverick and Lisa present Seven with a cake. The group sings happy birthday, eats cake, and spends the rest of the night dancing and laughing together.
Analysis of Chapters 19 - 21
Starr’s fear of the courthouse reflects the cyclical nature of imprisonment brought about by violence and poverty in the face of an oppressive social and criminal justice system. Maverick was in prison at the same time that his father was; both men were pulled into the nebulous world of street gangs. In fact, Maverick was essentially jailed because of his father—he became a King Lord at twelve, following in the footsteps of his big-time gangster father. Maverick’s sacrifice for King enabled him to leave the King Lords; the fact that he had to take prison time to leave the game demonstrates the difficulty of breaking a negative cycle.
The fight that Starr has with Hailey brings out an interesting new aspect of her character. Starr points out that a stage of grief is anger, and she has much to be angry about, from Khalil’s death to her friend’s unapologetic racism. The fact that this anger actually translates into violence points to how deeply rooted it is. Starr lashes out because she is angry at recent events, and because of the steadily building tensions of feeling forced to hide important parts of herself at Williamson. The racism and hate that imbues Starr’s environment pushes her to the breaking point, and her internal anger bubbles over into physical action.
Maverick’s ability to bring the King Lords and Garden Disciples together is a pivotal moment in the narrative of gang violence and rivalry explored thus far in the book. Although he is by no means able to end the turf wars that plague Garden Heights, Maverick nonetheless makes the gang members understand that they are united against a common enemy—race-based mistreatment in the police force and in society as a whole. The meeting in Maverick’s kitchen is an optimistic moment in the midst of turmoil and sadness.
Seven’s party gives Starr the chance to combine her two separate worlds for the first time. She’s incredibly apprehensive about the moment that her Williamson friends meet her Garden Heights friends, and she’s not sure how to act—what kind of words and expressions should she use? How should she conduct herself? The fact that Starr is able to relax and be her authentic self is testament to the open-mindedness of her friends as well as the essential fact that people are more similar than different. Just because her two spheres of existence involve different experiences and norms of behavior doesn’t mean that they can’t coexist in the neutral space of Carlos’s house.
The relationship between Iesha and Seven is a heartbreaking example of how the bonds of family unity can strain in the face of abuse and hardship. Although Seven always tried to protect his mother, he feels that she never reciprocated his love. It’s especially painful that Iesha didn’t show up to his graduation, because this was a proud and significant moment in his life. Still, Iesha feels the bonds of motherhood connecting her to her son, and she is hurt and angry when she sees the distance that exists between them. She is clearly misguided, but as Starr points out, it can be extremely difficult to find a way to navigate life when trapped in a terrifying situation of abuse.