Synopsis: 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 loved The Hate U Give and so I was excited to read Angie's second book. And I am so glad I did because this book really solidified Angie as a tremendous talent when it comes to writing engaging and timely contemporary fiction.
One of the things that I love about Angie as an author is the way she balances serious and complex issues without making them feel preachy. I don't read a lot of contemporaries ans the ones that I do, I like to have that balance serious and light moments. It's what makes the book feel more realistic and true to life. Like The Hate U Give, On the Come Up does a really good job of portraying the struggle people of color are going through, and how the system is built to keep them down. She doesn't shy away from things like racism, poverty, gangs, and drugs. Bri's life isn't easy and she and her family are struggling to make ends meet but their still full of humor and love for one another. That contrast gave the book a lot of depth and balance.
But what made this book so complex and relatable is Bri and her struggle to decide who she wants to be versus what other people expect her to be. One of the tings I love about reading YA is that there is always this struggle, this coming-of-age story where the character has to decide for themselves who they are. With Bri she did this under the guise of her rap career. She writes what she feels and the song blows up but when people expect her to be everything that she trying to rap against she needs to decide if what her image should be. And while this is a kind of specific problem, it still felt really genuine and relatable. It helped me connect with Bri and gave her character a lot of depth.
Although connecting with Bri was not very hard for me, in general I really liked Bri as a character. She's not necessarily going to be the kind of person everyone connects with. She's brash and reckless and is the kind of person who speaks before she things sometimes. Her mouth and temper gets her into a lot of trouble throughout the book. But I liked that she wasn't shy and she stood up for herself. Her choices weren't always the right ones, but they also aren't easy choices. I listened to the audiobook for this one because I really like the narrator, Bahni Turpin, but I was honestly a little nervous because she also narrated The Hate U Give and I didn't want to feel the same. But it didn't feel that way at all. Bri's voice shined through loud and clear, and it was a voice I enjoyed a lot.
Bri was not the only interesting character though. One of the things Angie does so well is the family dynamic. I really loved the way she handled Bri's family. Her mom, Jay, was such a complex character. I felt like the relationship they had played a lot with the trope in YA of the absent parent. Jay used to be absent but now that she is sober and around she is struggling to prove to Bri that she can take care of her, even though she is struggling to make that happen. I really connected with Jay's story and rooted for her to succeed. I also really love Bri's brother Tre. He and Bri had a lot of love and affection for each other as they had been through so much but they also had that sibling relationship where they don't always get along. Some of the funniest moments came from those two messing with each other.
All in all, I think this a fantastic follow up to the Hate U Give. It stands on its own as a fantastic read with a complex look at the issues people face today, great characters, and the perfect amount of humor and love.
I give On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 9.5 out of 10 stars
Have you read On the Come Up? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!