I loved this even more than The Hate U Give and I DIDN’T THINK THAT WAS POSSIBLE! Angie Thomas is the queen of YA and the queen of my whole ass at this point.
I love Bri, her family, and her friends so damn much. She feels like a real person and not just a character, and her personality and voice are so strong. Even when she's stubborn and wrong you just can't help but root for her. The family, friends, and other supporting characters are similarly compelling and well fleshed out - even down to the judgemental turds at church!
There’s something about Bri that is just so relatable. This book will speak volumes to kids in similar situations, but I honestly think there’s something in Bri that everybody can relate to no matter what walk of life you come from. Whether it’s how she’s treated as a woman, losing her father, her mother’s history, chasing her dream, forging a name in a male-dominated industry, or going through rough times financially, there’s something that will speak to everyone. (If not, soz you’re probably Voldemort)
I liked how On the Come Up references THUG but was very much its own story. Angie Thomas references Khalil’s murder and the subsequent riots, and the discourse about police brutality and racism continues, but Bri is allowed the space to have her own journey. The events of THUG obviously touched everybody, but the community is so vast, has so much going on, and even more story to tell.
(And on the subject of references, I SEE that subtle reference to Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda! ;______;)
In addition to continuing the police brutality and racism conversation, the book explores themes of poverty, drug addiction, drug dealing, absent parents, gang activity, and classism and privilege within the Garden Heights community. It also explores themes of hope, using your voice, knowing yourself and not sacrificing your identity for someone else’s vision, and knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.
Along with well-rounded characters and interesting themes, the story itself is strong and well paced. You can anticipate the beats that it’ll hit (no pun intended), but the way in which Angie Thomas gets there is just a joy to read. I loved her writing style and it had the perfect amount of happiness and sadness, peaks and troughs, tension and relief.
I was really worried about how this would measure up to THUG, but I can confidently and truthfully say I love On the Come Up even more. It's a strong novel that stands on its own two feet and I would give this a billion stars if I could. ;___; MY HEART.
Author is 30-year-old African-American from Mississippi. Has written two YA novels inspired by #BlackLivesMatter. (She witnessed a fully fledged shoot out when she was six!)
The Hate U Give (2018) is about a girl of 16 who lives in a poor black urban area but attends a prestigious school in an upmarket white area. She witnesses a black youth shot dead by cops. Stuff happens as a result. It was the best book I read last year.
On The Come Up is about Bri, a 15-year-old girl and aspiring rapper, who attends a performing arts high school. Her father was a successful local rapper gunned down in gang violence when she was an infant. Her mother is a reformed addict struggling to make ends meet. Inspired by Michelle Obama, confectionary is banned at school, so Bri hustles Snickers bars until white security guards at school forcibly search and assault her. Her rap about the incident goes viral.
This is another gem. If you want to understand what it is like to be black in America today, forget Colson Whitehead and Ta-Neshi Coates. Check out Angie Thomas.