Angie Thomas is back, and with The Hate U Give topping two years on the NYT bestsellers list, you can bet her sophomore novel, On the Come Up, is going to make a splash too. I selected On the Come Up as one of my February book of the month club picks (along with Enchantee, love their new YA inclusion) and once I started reading it, I flew through. I ended up downloading it on Kindle through my library too so I could surreptitiously read at work and even while I was in the bathroom or in the kitchen at work, waiting for my coffee to brew.
Bri is a rapper, and it certainly helps that her father was a rapper too, until he was killed in gang-related violence when she was a kid. Since then, her family has struggled, her mother has had to battle addiction, and when the novel begins, the house doesn’t have heat. Bri is anxious to make her name as a rapper, to get her “come up”, and really make her voice heard. So when she gets the change to rap battle in the “Ring” she knows its her time to shine. She certainly makes a splash there, but things escalate quickly when an incident with the security officers at school starts a community conversation and gives Bri something to get angry about in the booth. But when her song goes viral, Bri will have to answer for her lyrics, answer for her action, and decide what really matters to her. Along the way you get to know her family, the Garden’s struggle with being heard, and the plague of gang violence on their neighborhood. There’s also Bri’s nerdiness, her family dynamic, typical school flirting, and a lot of coming into your own.
I really liked this book. Because of THUG, and the movie, I was prepared for absolute catastrophe (and a lot of tears) but this was a more nuanced look at Bri’s life and the choices she has to make and the situations and hardships she faces.AKA, no one dies. There’s just as much punch as THUG, but it’s more focused on Bri’s words and her voice as opposed to violence against others, though there is of course some of that. I really liked the relationship in this book and their complications with everyday life. I also felt like it was a very realistic depiction of poverty. Bri’s mom doesn’t “want” welfare, it’s not as easy to get food stamps as people think and people do often go without heat. It was a really well fleshed out background for the story to unfold against. Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a “rap fan” or at least listener,even, I really got into the raps Bri wrote and understood the whole music scene as it played out.
I don’t know if this book will achieve the same fame as THUG, but it’s been on the NYT list for a few weeks and I’ve seen a lot of people talking about it, so fingers crossed I’m wrong! I’d love to see a movie of this just so I can see Bri’s raps live! Speaking of that, check out Angie Thomas herself rapping one of Bri’s raps!
— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) March 11, 2019