Chapters 11–15

In this best-selling novel, sixteen-year-old Starr's life is turned upside down when she witnesses the death of her friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Learn these words from Angie Thomas's powerful and provocative debut.
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definitions & notes only words
  1. atrium
    the central area in a building, open to the sky
    Folks are quiet as hell. Well, whispering really, in little huddles in the halls and the atrium like they’re discussing plays during a basketball game.
  2. meme
    a cultural idea or behavior passed from person to person
    Somebody’s gonna turn Mr. Lewis into a meme. He’s making a fool out of himself and doesn’t even know it.
  3. retaliation
    action taken in return for an injury or offense
    “Do you think that it was retaliation for the Khalil Harris case?” the reporter asks.
  4. thug
    an aggressive and violent young criminal
    These thugs been terrorizing Garden Heights for years, how they gon’ get mad now?
  5. curfew
    an order that after a certain time activities are prohibited
    “Do you think that the curfew the mayor announced today will prevent incidents like this?” the reporter asks Mr. Lewis.
  6. linger
    be about
    Two officers get out. One black, one white. Their hands linger too close to the guns at their waists.
  7. clench
    squeeze together tightly
    Daddy looks at the sky and blinks the way I do when I don’t wanna cry. He clenches and unclenches his hands.
  8. activate
    put in motion
    Daddy once told me there’s a rage passed down to every black man from his ancestors, born the moment they couldn’t stop the slave masters from hurting their families. Daddy also said there’s nothing more dangerous than when that rage is activated.
  9. defend
    argue or speak in justification of
    The Khalil I know would’ve jumped on TV in a hot second and told everybody what happened that night if it meant defending you. And you can’t do the same for him.
  10. coward
    a person who shows fear or timidity
    Here you are, with a chance to help change what happens in our whole neighborhood, and you staying quiet. Like a coward.
  11. violate
    act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts, or promises
    A voice booms from the armored vehicle, “All persons found violating the curfew will be subject to arrest.”
  12. hypocrite
    a person who professes beliefs that he or she does not hold
    Some reggae chants meet me in the hall, followed by Kendrick Lamar rapping about being a hypocrite.
  13. deliberate
    carefully thought out in advance
    “It seemed Mr. Lewis impulsively spoke out in anger and frustration. In a case like Khalil’s, I would much rather that you spoke out in a more deliberate and planned way.”
  14. backfire
    return with an undesired effect
    Sometimes these kinds of things backfire. And at the end of the day, the court of public opinion has no say in this. The grand jury does.
  15. evidence
    means by which an alleged matter is established or disproved
    If they see enough evidence, which they should, Officer Cruise will be charged and tried.
  16. matter
    have importance or weight
    I’ll do whatever I can to make sure you’re heard, Starr. Because just like Khalil and Natasha mattered, you matter and your voice matters.
  17. militant
    showing a fighting disposition
    It’s gonna take a hell of a lotta boldness to put myself out there for Khalil. Like “I once told my militant black daddy about my white boyfriend” kinda boldness.
  18. exclusive
    not divided or shared with others
    “It’s not like this kinda stuff is exclusive to black people, you know? The reasoning may be different, but that’s about it. Your parents don’t have a problem with us dating?”
  19. drama
    an episode that is turbulent or highly emotional
    We sit at the counter, and I listen to his play-by-play of school today. Nobody walked out because the police were there, waiting for any drama.
  20. determine
    shape or influence; give direction to
    “Please! Dude wearing J’s. White boys wear Converse and Vans, not no J’s unless they trying to be black.”
    Really? “My bad. I didn’t know shoes determined somebody’s race.”
  21. disappoint
    fail to meet the hopes or expectations of
    I swear to God whenever I think about Khalil falling into that life, it’s like watching him die all over again. Yeah, Khalil matters and not the stuff he did, but I can’t lie and say it doesn’t bother me or it’s not disappointing. He knew better.
  22. admit
    declare to be true or accept the reality of
    “He tried to get Khalil to join, but Khalil said nah. Then a cop killed him, so you know, all the homies riding for him now. King not ’bout to admit that Khalil turned him down. So he got folks thinking that Khalil repped King Lords.”
  23. deny
    refuse to recognize or acknowledge
    This is worse than denying him. I thought the worst of him. Like everybody else.
  24. tragedy
    an event resulting in great loss and misfortune
    Starr, I’m sorry for protesting. It was stupid to use a tragedy just to get out of class.
  25. fate
    the ultimate agency predetermining the course of events
    He’s been a cop for as long as Khalil was alive, and I wonder if in some sick twist of fate Khalil was only born for this man to kill.
  26. notorious
    known widely and usually unfavorably
    “A majority of those years have been spent serving in Garden Heights,” the voice-over continues, “a neighborhood notorious for gangs and drug dealers.”
  27. roam
    move about aimlessly or without any destination
    I tense as footage of my neighborhood, my home, is shown. It’s like they picked the worst parts—the drug addicts roaming the streets, the broken-down Cedar Grove projects, gangbangers flashing signs, bodies on the sidewalks with white sheets over them.
  28. apparently
    seemingly; as far as one can tell
    Apparently, Brian pulled the kid over ’cause he had a broken taillight and was speeding.”
  29. glance
    take a brief look at
    “And they kept glancing at each other, like they were up to something. Brian says that’s when he got scared, ’cause they could’ve taken him down if they teamed up.”
  30. quiver
    shake with fast, tremulous movements
    His lips quiver. My body shakes. He covers his mouth to hold back a sob. I cover mine to keep from puking.
  31. gruff
    deep and harsh sounding as if from shouting or emotion
    “What’s wrong with saying his life matters too?”
    “His life always matters more!” My voice is gruff, and my throat is tight. “That’s the problem!”
  32. rationalize
    defend, explain, or make excuses for by reasoning
    “I hate that I let myself fall into that mind-set of trying to rationalize his death. And at the end of the day, you don’t kill someone for opening a car door. If you do, you shouldn’t be a cop.”
  33. debt
    money or goods or services owed by one person to another
    “Why he sold drugs. He was trying to help Ms. Brenda pay a debt to King.”
  34. stubborn
    tenaciously unwilling to yield
    “Couldn’t have stopped him. Khalil was almost as stubborn as you. I know you cared about him a lot, even as more than a friend, but you can’t blame yourself for this.”
  35. amplify
    increase in size, volume or significance
    “Baby, look. You’re grieving, okay? That can amplify your emotions and make you feel things you haven’t felt in a long time. Even if you do have feelings for Khalil, there’s nothing wrong with that.”
  36. casualty
    someone injured or killed in a military engagement
    We hate when they fight because we always get stuck in the middle of their wars. Our appetites are the greatest casualty. If Momma’s mad and not cooking, we have to eat Daddy’s struggle meals, like spaghetti with ketchup and hot dogs in it.
  37. gawk
    look with amazement
    Daddy helps me to Momma’s car, and people in the halls gawk. I bet they know I’m the witness from my teary, snotty face, and are probably giving me a new name—Poor Thing.
  38. blasphemous
    grossly irreverent toward what is held to be sacred
    I’m ashamed to admit it, but I don’t know if Daddy stands a chance against King. Daddy isn’t skinny or short, but compared to King, who’s pure muscle at six feet, he looks tiny. It’s damn near blasphemous to think like that though.
  39. hustle
    busy or energetic activity
    They already saying Khalil sold drugs. That could mean problems for anybody who may have been involved in his hustle. So people gotta be careful when they talking to the DA. Wouldn’t want them to be in danger ’cause they ran their mouth.
  40. minion
    a servile or fawning dependent
    He gets in his BMW. His minions follow, and he peels out, leaving the truth behind.
Created on June 26, 2017 (updated April 8, 2019)

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