(Angie Thomas, 2019)
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.
What I Liked
- Of course I loved the raps! Who am I kidding? I don’t personally listen to a whole lot of rap music, but I found Bri’s words to be extremely entertaining. I actually also stumbled upon a video of Angie Thomas raping one of Bri’s raps at a book talk and it sounded just as great as when I read it. I found Bri’s process super interesting too. I loved being inside her mind as she came up with each verse, how she gets to those rhymes, and then seeing how they all come together in the end. It is extremely satisfying.
- While there were a number of important issues addressed in this story, I still felt like it was heavily character driven. Angie has a way of making you fall in love with each and every character, regardless of their relationship to the story, or how long they are focused on/mentioned. These characters are ultimately why you stay to find out what happens next. You want to know that all of them end up happy, and that they find the peace they are looking for (one way or another). I almost want to say I liked these characters more than those in THUG. These felt much more real, and relatable I guess.
- Yup, there is it. Of course we weren’t getting through a review without talking about the cover! I love the solid black, and the female character in a powerful pose. I love how simple it is. I love that they didn’t use a live model, but rather a drawing interpretation. I love the white spine, and the lettering. But mostly, I adore the texture to the cover. It is hard to explain but the jacket has a really interesting texture to it, which really stands out in terms of design.
What I Disliked
- Doesn’t stand alone
- On it’s own On the Come Up was a great story. It was well written and interesting with some really vibrant and life-like characters. But truthfully On the Come Up will never stand on it’s own. It will ALWAYS carry the shadow of THUG with it. People will read it not because of it’s content, but because it is the cousin of such a huge book. Hell, I would not have picked it up myself if it didn’t have Angie’s name on it. It’s sad but true. This book will be utterly forgettable because it can’t stand up to THUG apples to apples. That’s not to say it isn’t great, because it certainly is. It just lacks the star power of her first book. People will definitely read it. And by the numbers, it will appear successful, but at the end of the day people will only be comparing it to THUG and there is really no comparison (I’m sorry!)
I mean, it was an Angie Thomas novel. I never expected less than brilliant and I wasn’t disappointed. Truthfully, the description wasn’t something that I would have picked up on my own browsing the shelves for the next greatest read. BUT since it was Angie’s, it was an autobuy/read for me. I had trouble getting into it in the beginning, I won’t lie to you, but by the end I was like “yup, there it is!” Angie has such a magical way of making you feel for, and love every single character in her stories, like you are part of that friend group, and while they may have their flaws, you love every single one of them at the end of the day, all for different reasons. Her writing is so… flattering. It is beautiful but also readable, and relatable. She makes references that you feel like you can touch, and rarely feel out of place or forced. It is just magical the way she puts words on the page.
This was a hard book to rate. The story was just ok for me. I mean I loved the characters, I loved the writing but the storyline itself was just meh. I wasn’t AS invested in it as others so far this year. But that could just be me. While I love a good character-driven book, I need a really interesting plot to pull me through to the end. Don’t get me wrong, I love Angie Thomas. She is an auto buy/read author for me, and probably always will be, but this just wasn’t my favorite.