Chris and Starr meet at Williamson Prep, a prestigious private school in an affluent white neighbourhood. However, Starr can’t help but feel out of place there as a Black girl from Garden Heights, a much poorer neighborhood. Chris does not feel the pressure to assimilate at school that Starr does,...
Chris and Starr meet at Williamson Prep, a prestigious private school in an affluent white neighbourhood. However, Starr can’t help but feel out of place there as a Black girl from Garden Heights, a much poorer neighborhood. Chris does not feel the pressure to assimilate at school that Starr does, because he comes from a privileged white background and therefore shares a similar experience to the majority of the students there. Starr’s difference from those at school is made undeniable by the tragedy that occurs in Garden Heights:
I hope none of them ask about my spring break. They went to Taipei, the Bahamas, Harry Potter World. I stayed in the hood and saw a cop kill my friend.
When Starr’s friend and previous love interest Kahlil is killed, Starr knows she must share her side of the story as a witness and amplify the underrepresented voices of Garden Heights. Starr decides to keep this from Chris, and throughout the novel she is consistently concerned that Chris will not understand her experiences or the duties she feels as a Black girl. Keeping this secret from Chris and her friends at school drives a rift between her and them, and Starr struggles to balance the two halves of her identity: her affiliation with the white privileged community she sees at school and the community in Garden Heights in which she grew up. This is shown clearly when she admits:
I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it.
When Chris finds out the reason for Starr’s distance, he supports her and acknowledges the difference in their respective upbringings. His insistence to help in the riots and his participation in the defense of Maverick’s store from King shows how communication between the two allows them to maintain their relationship, despite their differences.