Book Review: “On The Come Up” by Angie Thomas

There are many things that are just so right about “On The Come Up”.  It’s subject matter, likeable characters and well-told story are enough to give it high ratings.  I for one gave it just that: a HIGH FIVE for book dopeness.  But that’s not where the artistry ends.

“On The Come Up” is the second book by New York Times best-selling author, Angie Thomas, which tells the story of sixteen-year-old Bri who wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.

But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.

Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.

You’ll never silence me and you’ll never kill my dream,Just recognize when you say brilliant that you’re also saying Bri.

Sample line from On The Come Up.

The initial appeal of this book to teens, almost teens and adults alike is predominately around the main theme: hip-hop.  We at Black Men Read loved the book and made it a part of our #BooksandBars book list for February and March 2019.  We think the hip-hop theme will appeal to the music enthusiasts especially those who normally steer away from reading.  Come for the sizzle and stay for the steak.

Not so deeply buried in the book are uber important themes that should be talked about more among adults but YA has been tackling for years.  Racial tension was previously tackled in Kekla Magoon’s “How It Went Down”.  The divide between police and the Black community was recently tackled in Angie Thomas’s first published book, “The Hate U Give”.  Jacqueline Woodson’s “If You Come Softly” tackled the complexities of relationships between races and classes. 

Behind the inspirational story of the talented, budding rapper Bri,
On The Come Up”, is full of important topics like sexual identity, financial shame, and family support networks to name a few.  These themes can be so easily overlooked as you’re cheering on Bri’s lyrical prowess in the face of adversity but if you step back even if only on one of the themes you will see Angie Thomas’s wizardry in weaving in social commentary without being preachy or forcibly heavy. 

I appreciate this book for what it is: a multi-generational, socially aware ride along.  The reader will root for Bri, cry for Bri and in the end, be proud of Bri.  I highly recommend this book, especially for reluctant young adult readers.

Pick up your copy today by visiting Mahogany Books, your local indie bookstore or wherever dope literature is sold.

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