On The Come Up – Angie Thomas
Genre: YA Fiction, Contemporary
Pages: 435
Release Date: February 2019
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighbourhood 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. 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.

After reading Angie Thomas’ debut novel ‘The Hate U Give’, I was very intrigued to see what her second novel was going to bring to the table and it’s safe to say she did not disappoint.

I really enjoyed this story. It follows 16 year old Bri Jackson as she navigates her way through the world trying to become a rapper and make it out of Garden Heights, her neighbourhood, while dealing with the everyday issues of living in a poor neighbourhood. On The Come Up takes place in the same setting as THUG, Garden Heights, but is set after everything that happens to the town in THUG. I liked that we return to Garden Heights for this story as we are able to see the aftermath of the Police shooting, how the town has changed and how everyone is affected by it and I think Angie Thomas did a great job of subtly intertwining the two stories without making On The Come Up feel like a sequel to THUG.

I liked the topic of music in this book. Bri is an aspiring rapper and she talks a lot about artists who inspired her. Along with the music, the story also addresses some other issues that Bri tackles on a daily basis, especially at her school.

Following a physical altercation between her and her school’s security guard, as well as dealing with the effects of her mother recently losing her job, Bri expresses her frustrations through her music and releases a song that ends up going viral, for the wrong reasons. In the midst of all the backlash and controversy, Bri’s song sparked a conversation on whether her music, and hip hop/rap in general, promotes violence or encourages violence. I liked that this topic was included in the story as it is an important and relevant discussion in today’s society. The story addresses the question of why aren’t we looking into the real issues behind the music, instead of using music, or in terms of the story Bri’s song, as the scapegoat for the cause/increase of violence in certain areas?

‘[interviewer] “A lot of folks have been focusing on the violent nature of the lyrics. Do you think they encouraged those students at that school to act out violently?”
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
[Bri] “They were clearly upset about other stuff. A song didn’t make them do anything. All these people are using me as a cop-out instead of asking what the real problems are”’(pg.343)

I enjoyed majority of the characters in this story. I thought that Bri made a great protagonist and I liked how she remained unapologetic in her attempt to be heard. However, I did feel like some of the secondary characters in the story were underdeveloped, they lacked depth and didn’t really add to the story. I felt like one or two of the characters could’ve been left out the story completely and it wouldn’t have made a difference lmaoo #sorrynotsorry. In my opinion, it would’ve been better to have less characters that were more developed than have lots of characters that weren’t written beyond surface level.

Overall, I did really enjoy this story. I highly recommend it and if you haven’t read The Hate U Give yet, then I would suggest reading it first because they are both great books.

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