Book Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray)

A few years ago I read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and was absolutley blown away. So, back in January when I went to Myopic Books in Chicago and found a used copy of On the Come Up, I knew it was fate telling me to read it.

I finally got around to following fate’s demand.

For those who don’t know, Angie Thomas is an unofficial rapper and more official writer, with a BFA in Creative Writing from Belhaven University. Her debut, The Hate U Give, won her awards such as ALA’s William C. Morris Debut Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. She currently resides in Atlanta.

On the Come Up follows young Bri, a wannabe rapper, living in her deceased father’s shadows. When she wins her first rap battle, she goes on to write a song that causes a lot of controversey and starts to get lost in the fame and infamy.

I was happy to see that Bri’s story took place in Garden Heights, the same setting as The Hate U Give, though the stories never overlap. It was a nice nod to the Thomas’s original work.

That being said, the writing took a little bit of time to get used to it. I think this is because I came into this straight after reading fantasy novels and had trouble getting used to contemporary language again. On the Come Up made good use of AAVE, and though I didn’t know all the slang, I could easily pick up the meaning through context.

The characters were very believable, especially the teenage characters. A lot of what Bri struggled with was finding a sense of identity in a world where everyone already made assumptions of who she was. This is a difficulty for all teenagers, but especially for poor Black teenagers when people made racist and classist assumptions.

Bri would often make bad decisions, and it drove me crazy, but the decisions made sense for a sixteen-year-old girl who was scared for her family. Especially when she fought with her friends, I got so frusturated, but I have to admit that the type of arguments they had were so relatable to young teens out there. The older characters also struggled with identity in different ways, facing other people’s judgement in ways that set both bad and good examples for Bri. For example, in many ways Bri’s mom and her aunt were foils of each other, though they both struggled.

Finally, the plot really drew attention to the inequality that people of color and/or people from poorer areas face. Whether it’s access to education, liklihood of crime, being drawn into a cycle of violence, or simply having to face assumptions other people make, seeing this inequality made me wish to help be a force for good, but also not knowing how. I really do think books like this can help others build empathy and understanding for those in different situations.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it wasn’t as good as The Hate U Give. I think I’ll give it four stars for relatable characters and valuable lessons, while maybe falling slightly in the writing style.

Oh, and apparently, this will be a movie released in September!

By myadventure2017

Writer, Reader, Bookstagrammer, Booktoker, Blogger

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