Throughout The Hate U Give, Starr grows from an uncertain teenage girl to an outspoken activist for change in her community. Starr’s witty and relatable narrative style contrasts with her reluctance to speak out at the start of the novel. Because Starr feels torn between her two worlds—the poverty and violence of Garden Heights and the wealth and respectability of Williamson Prep—she is unsure how to speak about Khalil’s death, fearing the story will affect how her white friends and boyfriend, Chris, view her. Khalil’s death disrupts any semblance of equilibrium Starr has created between her Garden Heights and Williamson Prep identities, and forces Starr to realize that no matter what she does, she will always be judged within white spaces. With this realization, Starr stops silently tolerating racist comments from Hailey, allows Chris into her Garden Heights life, and ultimately testifies before the grand jury on Khalil’s behalf, becoming a voice of justice for those subjected to police brutality.
Starr’s name carries the thematic weight of the many meanings of the word “star,” which emphasizes her potential for leadership in her community. Maverick states that he chose Starr’s name because she was a light in a dark time for him. Throughout The Hate U Give, Starr acts as a light of hope and truth for many of the characters. In testifying to the grand jury and speaking out at the protest, she sheds light on the truth about Khalil and breaks through the layers of falsehoods that the media has created. By exposing King’s involvement in Khalil’s death, Starr inspires her neighbors and DeVante to have the courage to speak out against King. Starr’s realization of her potential for leadership in her community highlights how Hailey’s racism had previously relegated Starr to a secondary role in Hailey’s life whereas Starr is the center of her own.