Book Review: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Book: On The Come Up by Angie Thomas

Published February 2019 by Balzer + Bray|464 pages

Where I Got It: I borrowed the hardcover from the library

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood 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 was nervous going into On The Come Up.  I loved The Hate U Give, and I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time.  On The Come Up was great, and I loved it just as much as The Hate U Give.

This is a very different book than THUG.  Bri, I think, is a character who is not always the easiest to like or root for, but Bri is a really interesting character.  She’s angry and resentful and impulsive but she wants a better life for her and her family.  She lost her dad, her family is struggling to make ends meet, and has to deal with a lot of sexism in the hip-hop industry.

Bri’s trying to figure out who she is, and I love her for that.  She has a great group of people who love her and support her, from her grandparents, to her aunt to her friends to her mom and brother.  The relationships really stood out to me, particularly the one with her mom.  Her mom was amazing, and she just wanted Bri and her brother to do better than she did.  She was supportive and encouraging and wanted them to do well in school.  Her mom had a lot to deal with, from people not wanting to give her a chance because of a prior history of using drugs to going to school to give her kids a better life than the one she had.

I loved seeing Bri’s raps throughout the book.  I’m normally not a fan of lyrics (particularly original lyrics) in books, but it was a way for Bri to express herself, and I really liked it.  I’d actually love to see this book as a movie just to see the rap battles and to see Bri perform.  I really felt for her when someone thought that she didn’t write her own lyrics, and performing her own music was really important to her.  She really stuck to that, and I hated that no one took her seriously when she didn’t want to do someone’s else’s lyrics.  Actually, now I’m curious to see if there’s an audio book, just so I can listen to the lyrics.

On The Come Up does mention the events of THUG, so while we don’t see Starr, or get any follow up on what happened after, it is mentioned.  It makes sense, since this book is set in the same neighborhood.  Now I just want to re-read THUG to stay in this world a little bit longer.

5 stars.  I LOVED this book, and it’s a great follow-up to The Hate U Give.  I loved everything about this book, and I feel like I can’t properly do this book justice.  It’ a great book, and I definitely recommend it!

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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published February 2017 by Balzer + Bray|464 pages

Where I Got It: I own the e-book

Series: None

Genre: YA Contemporary

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Angie Thomas’s searing debut about an ordinary girl in extraordinary circumstances addresses issues of racism and police violence with intelligence, heart, and unflinching honesty. Soon to be a major motion picture from Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and there was a lot of buzz surrounding the book.  I was really hesitant to read it- as much as I wanted to read it- because I was terrified it wouldn’t live up to all of the hype and my really high expectations.

Now I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to read it.

Because I loved this book, and it completely gutted me.  If you read one book this year, please make it this book.

I felt so much for Starr and Khalil and her neighborhood.  What Starr and Khalil went through…I will never experience, and I am grateful I don’t have to worry about getting shot at if I get pulled over by a cop.  The conversation her dad has with her about what to do if she gets pulled over?  That’s a conversation my mom and grandparents never needed to have with me, nor is it a conversation I will never need to have with my non-existent children.  However, I vaguely remember hearing that the police would help me, and that they’d protect me and keep me safe.

That is not the reality for Starr at all, and it makes me so unbelievably sad that not everyone is able to trust that the police will keep them safe.  That Khalil- and many others like him- are guilty until proven innocent, that Khalil, who was doing NOTHING wrong, is seen as trouble because of where he’s from.

It was such a hard book to put down, and even thinking about this book, I’m getting emotional.  The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but be reminded of everything that’s going on in America right now.  It very much reflects real life, and it felt very honest.

Yes, it reflects real life, but it is unforgettable and powerful, and an amazing story with amazing, nuanced characters. No one is stereotypical or one-dimensional, and each character is unforgettable.

I did want to talk about Hailey, one of Starr’s best friends.  I hated Hailey with a passion, and how she took part in a protest just to get out of class.  In general, I hated her classmates for using Khalil’s death to get out of class, and yet, it’s something I would expect from Starr’s classmates.  But most of all, the things Hailey said, and how she didn’t see anything wrong with making comments about fried chicken to Starr, or comments about eating cats to their other best friend Maya.  Hailey…she didn’t understand why Starr had such a problem with everything Hailey herself said about Khalil, and completely dismissed Starr’s feelings about it.  Yes, she’s 16 or 17, but that doesn’t dismiss it at all. She, very clearly, didn’t want to understand, and it was frustrating to see Hailey want to stay in her own little bubble of people like her.  It makes me wonder why they were all friends to begin with.

No words will describe how I feel about this book.  Just trust me when I say that if you haven’t read The Hate U Give, you really need to.

5 stars.  I loved this book so much, and it’s easily my favorite book of the year.