Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighbourhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.
I received an uncorrected proof copy for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Any quotes used in this review are subject to change upon release.
This book. Guys, THIS BOOK. By this point, I hope we all know who Angie Thomas is and what she is bringing to the world, and let me tell you that The Hate U Give was not a one off. Her follow up, On the Come Up, is just as brilliant, diverse, and gives a voice to those who need it most. I adored it. While THUG very much focuses on police brutality and the fallout of a shooting, OTCU looks more into the every day life of another family also living in Garden Heights, the same area where THUG was set.
As a reminder, I am a privileged white woman from the UK, this book was not written for me, or with me in mind. The only possible thing I can take from this is how lucky and privileged I am and to make sure I check that privilege. With that in mind, I’m going to keep this review quite short.
However, if this book was written for you, if you are a underprivileged black teen living in America and would like a copy of this book, I am willing to send you my ARC copy. No strings attached.
“Gift. One word, one syllable. I don’t know if it rhymes with anything because it’s a word I never thought could be used when it comes to me.”
Themes and representation – As to be expected with a follow up of THUG, the representation within this novel is brilliant. Firstly, the poverty rep – I’m not going to pretend to know what life is like for families like Bri’s, but as an outsider, it was a very eye-opening look into people living on the line of poverty in first world countries such as the US and UK. I feel like this is a subject not often tackled, and it was done well. Secondly, being set in Garden Heights, OTCU featured a lot of similar themes of racism and black representation as THUG. Once again, Thomas creates something astounding, calling out those abusing their power and giving a voice to those who need it the most.
“Unarmed and dangerous, but America, you made us, only time we famous is when we die and you blame us.”
Bri’s lyrics – I love lyrics. They’re my favourite thing about music, and while I’m not generally a rap fan, Hamilton is my life, and I’ve been known to dabble in poetry. Bri’s lyrics are incredible. Now, Angie Thomas apparently was a teen rapper herself and is bringing her skills back for this and she does not disappoint. I would love to here Bri’s raps set to music, so can someone make that happen please?
“I’m lost. I’m so lost that I’m exhausted from trying to find my way.”
“Never let yourself drown while trying to save somebody that don’t wanna be saved.”
Importance of Angie Thomas – This woman is a gift to the world, especially living in a country currently run by bigots and racists, and yet she never gives in. She brought us a hard-hitting novel about gun violence and police brutality which has been on the NYT Bestseller list for 100 weeks (as of 5th Feb 2019) and sold over 850,000 copies (as of June 2018). Now she brings us another battleaxe of a book about raising your voice, about following your dreams despite the world telling you that where you’ve come from isn’t good enough. Angie Thomas is the voice this world needs right now.
“You’ll never silence me. I got too goddamn much to say.”
Representation: PoC (specifically black main and secondary characters), poverty rep, addiction recovery, LGBTQIA+ secondary characters.
Content Warning: Racism, grief, violence (including themes of gangs), abuse of power, discussion of past drug abuse / addiction, discussion of past neglect.
Have you pre-ordered On the Come Up? Let me know in the comments!