On The Come Up by Angie Thomas – A Review

Hi! I’ve been quiet for a couple of days though I really wanted to post and show my support for the Black Lives Matter movement in light of such terrible events. Instead, I decided to share a review and do better to consciously pick up more books by Black authors and promote them on here. Even though I read this book early last year, not too long after it came out, I thought since I haven’t posted a review for it then (because the blog didn’t exist), I will do so now.

On The Come Up by Angie Thomas
  • Publication date: February 7th 2019
  • Publisher: Walker
  • Genre: 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.

Oh, where do I start with this one…
On The Come Up is Angie Thomas’ second novel. After THUG absolutely BLEW UP, people were itching for another book, some definitely sceptical, with a question – can she do it again? The answer is: hell yeah, she can!

Our main protagonist, Brianna Jackson, Bri for short, is a sixteen year old girl from Garden Heights. Ever since she was a child she wanted to be a rapper. Her father, Garden’s own underground rap legend, was killed before he could make it big, and she’s determined to make a name for herself and do what her father never did. The dream becomes ever more urgent when the Jackson’s face eviction due to financial instability. Bri is sick of going hungry and wants to help her brother and mother support their family, and she does everything to achieve that, even if it means changing who she is.

Bri has become one of my favourite characters, after reading this book. She’s all I want in a protagonist – she has a personality, she’s driven, she’s caring, she’s flawed. She’s only sixteen. Of course she’s gonna fuck up on an occasion, say something she’s not meant to. Be angry. Everyone goes through that phase. And when you’re disadvantaged and marginalised… you’ve the right to take that angst up a notch.

Thomas has a talent for writing families. The dynamic they had felt incredibly authentic. They felt like a real family, the relationship between Jay and Bri justified by the past, the unwavering brotherly love from Trey, even when Bri fucked up real bad, because he felt not only like her older brother but also a father figure she was missing in her life. I really cared for all of them. It’s so easy for authors to forget about families and parents, especially when they’re not at the center of the story, but Thomas weaves it through the story effortlessly.

On The Come Up just right off the bat seems a lot less heavy than THUG, but it isn’t. It deals a lot with prejudice and racism, too. It’s about finding your voice, knowing your worth and that it’s not determined by how much money you have. It’s about following your dreams and doing it on your terms. It’s about stereotypes and perceptions.

In the words of Bri herself “I get that… and I don’t. I’ve caught glimpses of things (…) but I won’t ever know-know because I don’t live it.” I don’t know the life Angie Thomas, or Brie, or Starr, or any POC lives. I don’t know the hardships they do. But living in this world I see the prejudice. I know of the stereotypes. And it’s book like this that really open people’s eyes to it all. They teach kids about things they might not be exposed to, or exposed from the wrong perspective. Angie Thomas did it again. She wrote a great story, with great characters and touched on a lot of important issues.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you for reading!

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