Angie Thomas’ On the Come Up is an honest and tender story about the struggles and joys of a young Black girl with ambitions to become a rapper.
Bri Jackson is 16 and lives in Garden Heights (the same neighborhood that The Hate U Give took place in) with her single mother and college graduate brother. Bri has been rapping for as long as she can remember, and she thinks she has what it takes to go far. After all, her father – murdered when she was a child – was the best rapper in the Garden.
While Bri works toward her dream of becoming a rapper, so many other things are going on. She’s at a crucial point in school where grades and test scores are the deciding factor of her college acceptance; her family struggles with paying the bills; her lifelong friendships are beginning to change. She worries for her family, her stability, and her own success.
Can Bri’s life be as picture-perfect as she imagines it to be? As her rapping career is on the come up, she must face tough decisions and relationships and balance her responsibilities without getting into too much trouble.
Please take caution while reading On the Come Up if any of the following topics may trigger you:
- Death or dying
- Racism and racial slurs
- Sexism and misogyny
On the Come Up is such a fantastic Young Adult novel. It covers so many important topics for teenagers and adults, alike. While the writing style is very similar to that of The Hate U Give, the story is completely different. Bri’s story covers aspects of young adulthood, womanhood, and poverty that makes it so unique and special.
My favorite thing about this book, and Angie Thomas’s books in general, is the representation that she provides for the Black community. All of her characters break stereotypical molds and have such depth and richness. Bri struggles with the idea that others put her in a box – she’s Black, she’s a young girl, she’s outspoken – she must be “ratchet.” While there’s nothing wrong with being ratchet, she doesn’t believe she is, she doesn’t want to be labelled, and she knows that those giving her that title are doing so negatively.
Thomas tackles not only being a young Black person, but being a young Black woman. Bri is strong and independent but is always compared to her father. She wants to be her own person, capable of success because she’s talented – not because she’s a novelty. She struggles with being able to show tender emotion; she’s been taught that Jackson women don’t cry. When people count her out because she’s a girl, she proves them wrong and then some.
Lastly, I just love the depictions of Black joy that are found all through this book. Bri’s family, while struggling financially, love each other endlessly and have so much fun together; her best friends are fun and silly; a relationship she develops is lighthearted and caring.
On the Come Up tells the story of a young Black woman and her community – their struggles, day-to-day lives, and successes. Thomas is a master of breaking down walls and developing her characters into vivid humans who you could hope to know in your own life. This book is just beautiful and so important. If you loved The Hate U Give, I think you’ll love this story even more!
Thank you for taking the time to read my review of On the Come Up. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments or at my Instagram, @bookmarkedbya!