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On the Come Up

Review

On the Come Up

Bestselling author Angie Thomas returns with ON THE COME UP, which centers on 16-year-old Bri, who has aspired to become a successful rapper her entire life. Bri is following the footsteps of her late father, an underground hip hop legend, who left her, her brother and mother, Jay, behind. Their family lives paycheck to paycheck, and once Jay loses her job, the food in the fridge at their apartment becomes scarce and the gas company turns the heating off. Bri finally lands a chance to perform at the Ring, a boxing ring that hosts freestyle battles once a week. After her first performance, she is able to record her first song at a studio, which goes viral --- but not for the right reasons. Quickly, Bri finds herself in the midst of a controversy, while her mother faces eviction notices. Bri knows now that not only does she want to make it, but she knows her family is dependent on it.

"Thomas’ strength in writing compelling, young voices coming of age is apparent....[Her] poignant message provides a window for all."

Throughout the novel, Angie Thomas weaves in Bri’s own rap lyrics which parallel her current state. As a reader, I liked the unique way the story and the lyrics connected to the message she was conveying. There were moments throughout the story where I felt frustrated with Bri’s actions and attitude, but I appreciated how Thomas cultivated Bri as a vulnerable, raw teenager. In the end, through her strength and resilience, Bri was able to discover her voice despite her adverse environment.

One of my favorite aspects of this novel was Thomas creation of the compelling characters that are intertwined with Bri. From Jay, a recovering drug addict whose primary goal is to take care of her family, to Bri’s best friends, one of which she has a crush on, to her aunt Pooh, who is the epitome of supportive. Through these characters, Thomas depicts the systemic racism in our nation and paints the reality of what many African American children face on a daily basis. She portrays her characters in an empathetic light, discussing various character’s reasoning behind drug dealing, addictions, abandoning children, poverty, gangs and many more topics, making them multi-dimensional.

Readers who enjoyed THE HATE U GIVE, Thomas' first novel, will recognize the setting of Garden Heights. Through reading both of these novels, Thomas’ strength in writing compelling, young voices coming of age is apparent. On the opening page, Thomas relays her hopes that this novel inspires African American children who grew up in neighborhoods similar to that of Bri’s fictional one to use their voices. However, the novel reaches more than just the African American audience, this poignant message provides a window for all.

Highly recommended to any young adult looking to read a fast-paced, compelling novel that tackles numerous relevant topics. I am anxiously anticipating Thomas’ next novel!

Reviewed by Ryan H., Teen Board Member on February 13, 2019

On the Come Up
by Angie Thomas