The novel opens on 16-year-old lead character Starr Carter going to a spring break celebration with her buddy, Kenya. Starr’s family resides in Garden Heights, a mainly black and impoverished metropolitan area, but she and her bros attend a ritzy and mostly white private school forty-five minutes away. At the party, Starr is acutely aware of the double-sided personality this way of life stimulates: she attempts not to act “ghetto” at school, however neighborhood kids implicate her of deserting them for white good friends. Starr has actually simply started to catch up with Khalil– her buddy from youth, who has gone into the unsafe world of drug dealing considering that Starr began attending prep school– when a gang conflict leads to a dancefloor gunfight. Starr and Khalil leave the scene and are pulled over by a law enforcement officer for driving with a damaged taillight. The officer pats Khalil down and walks back to his automobile. When Khalil opens his vehicle door to ask Starr if she’s fine, the officer opens fire, and Starr watches her good friend pass away.
The grief, confusion, anger, and fear that Starr should handle in the aftermath of Khalil’s death make her at first unwilling to identify herself as the sole witness of the night’s occasions. As time passes, nevertheless, she loses her reluctance, serving as part of the police department’s investigation, talking to the regional defense attorney, and employing a lawyer from a regional activist group. Starr eventually welcomes advocacy herself by advocating for justice for Khalil on a nationally-televised interview and brazenly joining street demonstrations after a grand jury fails to arraign the officer who shot Khalil. Throughout the weeks that follow Khalil’s death, Starr should grapple not only with her own guilt and injury, however also with white classmates who use the occasion as an excuse to get out of class or imply that the officer had actually done society a favor by shooting a drug dealership. She hides her participation from her Williamson buddies and her white partner, Chris, prior to the fact comes bubbling up and Starr realizes which of her friends are worth keeping.
The disaster of Khalil’s death tears through an area currently fragmented by drugs and violence from deeply entrenched gangs. Starr’s father, Maverick, is a previous gang member who spent time in prison before he could extricate himself from the street life. His long-standing feud with Kenya’s dad, King– a gangster who effectively runs the area– puts Starr’s household in consistent threat. Stress emerge between Maverick and his brother-in-law Carlos; Carlos was Starr’s first daddy figure while Maverick was secured. The tense situation is even more complicated due to the fact that Carlos is a cop serving on the same force as the officer who shot Khalil. Torn in between the protective impulse he feels for Starr and the commitment he has towards his profession, Carlos assists Starr see that authorities can not be identified as normally corrupt or bad individuals.
Starr’s mom, Lisa, argues with Maverick about whether the household need to move out of Garden Heights. In the beginning, Radical is opposed since he thinks he can best enhance Garden Heights when he is residing in it; Lisa counters that their family’s safety is a top priority which Maverick can continue to use the supermarket he owns in the community as a method to help the neighborhood. Ultimately, the family transfers to the residential areas, but Starr’s sibling Seven– who copes with Kenya and King– remains split in between the desire to stay and protect his mom and sisters, and the desire to attend college beyond the city. Meanwhile, a newly initiated gangbanger called DeVante relies on Radical for help in getting out of the gang; he ends up coping with Carlos.
The stress and fights going through the unique come to a head with the grand jury decision over whether to apprehend the officer who shot Khalil. When the jury fails to arraign, protests and riots take over Garden Heights. King takes advantage of the chaos to set fire to Maverick’s store while Starr, Chris, Seven, and DeVante are trapped inside. With Maverick’s help, they manage to get away; the community turns on King, getting him apprehended for arson. With the pledge of Carlos’s defense, DeVante accepts act as witness to King’s drug-dealing schemes, eliminating him from the area’s gang scene and ending his abuse towards Kenya and 7’s mom. Radical also grows to accept Chris, inviting his child’s sweetheart to go boxing with him. The unique ends with Starr making a guarantee to Khalil’s memory: she won’t stay quiet, and will continue fighting versus injustice.