Summary of Chapters 25 & 26
Flames tear down the store’s aisles. Seven, Chris, DeVante, and Starr rush towards the back door, but the burglar bars prevent them from getting out, and the keys are by the front of the store where the fire is. They yell for help, and Tim Reubens, who was outside protecting his uncle’s deli, rushes to the back of the store and begins beating on the door. A few moments later, Maverick runs up as well and unlocks the door.
Everyone gets out just as the store is enveloped in flames. As they sit with Maverick, Lisa, and Carlos on the curb outside, trying to catch their breath, they notice King and a group of King Lords sitting on the hood of a gray BMW parked in the intersection. King is laughing and pointing. Maverick confronts him, and Carlos has to hold Lisa back from doing the same. Before anything can happen, however, police cars and fire trucks arrive.
Mr. Lewis tells the police that King started the fire, but since he didn’t see it happen, the police don’t believe him. Then Maverick breaks precedent by snitching and telling the cops that he saw King start the fire. Mr. Reuben, Tim, and others who have gathered on the street to watch the fire all serve as witnesses, too. The police officers arrest King and his gang as an ambulance arrives. Paramedics give Starr, DeVante, Seven, and Chris oxygen masks.
Maverick and Lisa tell Starr that they saw her throwing tear gas at the police on TV, calling her a “li’l radical.” Maverick seems to approve of Chris more after knowing he stuck with Starr throughout the night, making plans to take Chris training with him at the boxing gym. Carlos tells the group that King will be convicted of arson, but will probably be out by the end of the week. DeVante offers to turn witness and let the police know where King’s stash is, so he’ll go to prison—protecting Kenya, Iesha, and the whole neighborhood.
Late next morning, Lisa wakes Starr up; Ms. Ofrah is on the phone. She apologizes for putting Starr in a dangerous situation and for the way the trial turned out, but also lets Starr know that she thinks she has a future in activism. Starr sees that Hailey texted her “I’m sorry,” but when Starr asks Hailey what for, she realizes that Hailey isn’t really apologizing but is only sorry about how Starr reacted. Starr decides to cut Hailey out of her life, since she has become a toxic friend.
Starr walks into the kitchen: Sekani is eating a sandwich, Maverick is cutting rose petals to plant a new bush, and Seven is unpacking kitchen plates. A picture of Starr throwing the tear gas can is on the front page of the newspaper; news channels all over the country are airing footage. Maverick and Lisa explain that even though money will be tight after the store’s destruction, they can still make the new house work financially.
The family drives to the store to survey the damage. Their store and others on the street have been completely destroyed, but Mr. Lewis tells them that he is retiring and giving them his barber-shop property so that Maverick can expand the store when he renovates. Starr, her family, and some members of the community set to work on the store with gloves and garbage bags.
Starr looks up from working to see Kenya standing in front of her. Kenya explains that she and Lyric will move in with their grandmother, and that King beat Iesha; she had to go the hospital with a concussion, but she will recover soon. Kenya also apologizes for always referring to Seven as “her” brother rather than “our” brother, and Starr apologizes for never inviting Kenya to hang out with her Williamson friends because she was ashamed of where she lived. Kenya asks what will happen to the store, and Starr replies that they will rebuild it. She accepts that Khalil’s story had an unhappy ending, but feels hope that the black community will continue to fight for justice. She promises makes a promise to the memory of Khalil that she will never forget him, will never give up, and will never be silent.
Analysis of Chapters 25 & 26
The destruction and rebirth of the store is a significant moment in the narrative of the Carter family. Maverick’s store is inherently tied up with the family’s identity; it represents their attempt to improve Garden Heights by providing goods for their community as well as offering jobs to those who need them to avoid the street life. Thus, the burning of the store even with its “black-owned” tag represents a culmination of the destructive nature of gang violence and the ways that disunity within the Garden Heights community ends up bringing the entire neighborhood down.
In contrast, however, the communal rebuilding of the store—punctuated by cries of encouragement from Garden Heights residents—represents the potential for unity moving forward. Mr. Lewis offers his own property to Maverick because he believes that there should be more men like him in the neighborhood: men focused on the broader movement for fighting oppression rather than inter-community violence from the highly polarized gangs. Like the burning of the store, the tragedy of Khalil’s death has thus had unintentional positive consequences by bringing Garden Heights residents closer together.
Maverick’s acceptance of Chris is a significant moment in terms of unity as well. Setting aside his innate parental protectiveness, Maverick seems to have come to terms with the fact that Starr’s boyfriend being white does not mean that Maverick set a poor example for black men. In addition, the fact that Chris stuck by Starr’s side throughout the night even though he had never been to Garden Heights before demonstrated the ability of support and love to overcome differences in background and racial differences.
The ending of the book explores how Starr has changed from the beginning. Her tragic experience has forever shaped her life; the images of her friends being killed can never be forgotten. Yet, Starr manages to remain positive. She even manages to keep up the spirit of the fight for justice, to use her horrific experiences as encouragement to continue to speak up against unfairness.
Readers can see how Starr has overcome internal struggles over the course of the novel. In the beginning, she was scared of speaking up and worried that her perspective wouldn’t make a difference in the long run. Her vow at the end of the book never to be silent is indicative of her transformed viewpoint. There will always be injustice, but at the same time there will always be people willing to dedicate themselves to the struggle to make things right. Starr realizes that she can’t fix the world singlehandedly, but she can use activism as a tool to fight injustice. Ultimately, she embraces the power of her voice and becomes intensely aware of its ability to make tangible, meaningful change.