In what ways does Starr cope with the tragedy of Khalil's death? How do these coping techniques reflect the influences on her life such as family, friends, and media?
At first, Starr turns to her family and her community to help cope with her feelings of anger and sadness. Starr's parents talk with her, take her out to eat, hug her, and try to help her through the difficult aftermath of the shooting. Visiting Khalil's grandmother also gives Starr a sense of closure more than attending Khalil's funeral which is marred by local rivalries. Eventually, however, Starr's coping mechanisms transition from reaction to outright action: she protests after the jury decision and uses her elevated platform as the witness of the shooting to conduct a powerful televised interview.
What insights does this novel generate concerning the national debate over police brutality and racial profiling? Does it open new perspectives or explain any inconsistencies?
The novel provides a nuanced perspective on a hypothetical police shooting which offers insight into the character of the broader debate in the U.S. For example, the interview given by the officer's father and the responses that Starr gets to her own interview represent the "Blue Lives Matter" response to Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. The anger and frustration experienced by Starr and her friends, who cannot seem to beat the racist and oppressive systems of the police, helps explain why violent riots occur after grand jury decisions in similar cases. The fact that Carlos is a police officer prevents an easy characterization of all policemen as corrupt. Because each character is represented as a full person acting within a broader social system, the novel denies any simple explanations of police brutality issues but offers insight into the motivations of various groups involved.
What role does family play in the novel? In what ways are unconventional families portrayed? Discuss two other family besides Starr's.
Family is essential to Starr's experience of the world; everything from her job to her school has been influenced by the hopes her parents have for her own life. Starr's family demonstrates how caring can extend across multiple homes—Seven lives with Iesha and King, but clearly respects and loves his parents and siblings at Starr's house. Khalil's family demonstrates the importance of extended family such as grandmothers to raise children when the negative influences of drugs tear families apart. Nevertheless, Khalil remains dedicated to his mother—he sells drugs just to help her pay back a debt—which points to the enduring familial connection that persists despite hardships.
How does Hailey respond to Starr's struggle over Khalil's death? Is this a reflection of society or white privilege as a whole, or can the influence of Hailey's personality be teased out of the way she reacts?
Starr is bothered by Hailey's treatment of Khalil's death because Hailey refuses to demonstrate any empathy or to attempt to see the situation from Starr's point of view. Hailey certainly has a confrontational, overbearing personality; she always wants to be the leader in Starr's friend group and quickly grows defensive when Starr points out that she made a racist comment. Negative social factors, such as racial privilege, undoubtedly factor into Hailey's behavior as well. Hailey refuses to accept the fact that well-meaning people can make harmful racist remarks. She accepts a glossed-over stereotype of Khalil as a drug dealer and won't accept Starr's attempts to explain further.
Discuss the importance of speaking up in the novel. In what ways does Starr grow when it comes to learning to use her voice to fight for the issues she is passionate about?
The powerful closing lines of the novel demonstrate the centrality of speaking up to the story. A major plot point is Starr's how star deals with her grief, going from disbelief to anger to action. Starr channels her disappointment with brutal, racist police into activism. She is inspired to do so in part by Kenya, who points out that Khalil would have done the same for her. Starr comes to agree with Kenya and her father in their belief that speaking up, protest, and action are effective ways to ensure change.