On The Come Up Hardcover – February 5, 2019
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From the Publisher
Quote Cards from On The Come Up
On The Come Up Q&A with Angie Thomas
What would you like to share about your new novel, On the Come Up? The main character of Bri seems to have a lot in common with Angie Thomas.
There are bits and pieces here and there that Bri and I have in common, but it’s mainly our love for hip hop. I was a lot quieter than Bri was when I was a teen, but similarly to Bri, I used hip hop to express myself.
The Hate U Give and On the Come Up take place in the same town. Is this a reflection of the town you grew up in? And do you foresee more novels based in Garden Heights?
Garden Heights the neighborhood is based on my own childhood neighborhood, down to the landmarks and businesses and even the characters. My third book will be set in Garden Heights as well. After that, I don’t think I will return to that neighborhood.
Who were your greatest influences in hip hop? How important do you feel the storytelling aspect of hip-hop music is as a form of expression and a way of spreading knowledge?
Some of my biggest hip-hop influences are 2Pac, Notorious B.I.G., TLC, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Lauryn Hill, and Rapsody. Hip hop showed me myself when books didn’t, and it told the stores I connected with the most. That’s extremely important for young people especially, because it often reminds them they aren’t alone. Plus, hip hop helps make more people aware of societal issues. We wouldn’t know the truth of what happens in urban America if it weren’t for hip hop.
What will The Hate U Give fans be surprised by in On the Come Up?
I think THUG fans will be surprised at how different Garden Heights can be through someone else’s eyes. That’s one of the main things I wanted to show. I also think they will be surprised at how Starr’s story affects Bri’s.
From School Library Journal
★ “While acknowledging that society is quick to slap labels onto black teens, the author allows her heroine to stumble and fall before finding her footing and her voice. Thomas once again fearlessly speaks truth to power; a compelling coming-of-age story for all teens.” (School Library Journal (starred review))
★ “On the Come Up truly shines in its exploration of Bri’s resilience, determination, and pursuit of her dreams. In this splendid novel, showing many facets of the black identity and the black experience, Thomas gives readers another dynamic protagonist to root for.” (ALA Booklist (starred review))
★ “This honest and unflinching story of toil, tears, and triumph is a musical love letter that proves literary lightning does indeed strike twice. The rawness of Bri’s narrative demonstrates Thomas’ undeniable storytelling prowess. A joyous experience awaits. Read it. Learn it. Love it.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))
★ “With sharp, even piercing, characterization, this indelible and intricate story of a young girl who is brilliant and sometimes reckless, who is deeply loved and rightfully angry at a world that reduces her to less than her big dreams call her to be, provides many pathways for readers.” (Horn Book (starred review))
“For all the struggle in this book, Thomas rarely misses a step as a writer. Thomas continues to hold up that mirror with grace and confidence. We are lucky to have her, and lucky to know a girl like Bri.” (New York Times Book Review )
“This book beckons young readers and music lovers alike with an homage to the forefathers of hip-hop that also assures the feminine voice is never dismissed from the cypher.” (Washington Post)
“On the Come Up offers a complicated, imperfect heroine who lives and breathes her truth on every page.” (Entertainment Weekly)
“On the Come Up is earnest and warm-hearted, a careful examination of social issues that’s built around an immensely endearing main character. It’s likely to assure Thomas’s continued and well-deserved dominance on the best-seller lists.” (Vox)
“Bri’s story is utterly compelling from first to last.” (USA Today)
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In any case, it is another fantastic, relatable book, especially for the kids I have here at the JDC. They can relate to the themes, characters, and experiences, as most have grown up in complicated family systems and in communities not dissimilar from Garden Heights. Thomas is a great writer, and with "On The Come Up," I think she captured the language (her characters sound like my kids--even more so than in THUG). Well done, and we'll be eagerly waiting her third novel.
This book shows the author's growth. The charactes are all gripping and there is not a dull moment. I read the book in two days. The message of the story will stick with you. This is definately worth the read and one I will probably return to in the near future.
Here, high-school student Bri's passion to perform is tested by the pressures of her deceased dad's rap legacy, as well as the music industry's own demands (along with its misogynistic attitudes), and Bri's own preparations for college entrance exams. As the story progresses, Bri's lyrics vent against campus racism. But will this result in her music being censored, and her being virtually labeled a hoodlum? More urgently, will a music career prove a ticket for her family to escape compounding financial hardships?
While I more strongly favor the author's first novel, don't misunderstand -- this book, too, turned out enjoyable for me. The ending here may have seemed a bit ideal, but true to life, not all turned out rosy for everyone. I felt grateful to get acquainted with Bri's family and each of her closest peers. I grinned at some lyrical "sick burns" and I laughed seeing how gossip was prized at the church that Bri's family attended. I welcomed the implied ties to "The Hate U Give" and even a nod to a certain Becky Albertalli novel.
Bri is, as she says, brilliant, and as a character, one of the most unique and complex I’ve ever read. She’s tough and vulnerable, talented and sensitive, yet hot-headed. I love her voice, and being taken on the ride of her confusion feels genuine and was so much fun.
I love how Thomas doesn’t shy away from so many social lessons with this novel, more so than with THUG. Gun violence, racial stereotypes, welfare, systemic poverty, drug abuse, drug distribution, police brutality, and so much more are all discussed while also weaving in a bit of romance and the right amount of family drama.
This is a fast-paced read and I really want Trey to be my big brother, too. I just felt like it wasn’t as tight as I’d like it to be, and the pacing was off at times. Minor issue.
An incredible story. My kids will love it.
Top international reviews
So let's start with a spoiler-free overview. Teenage Bri (pronounced 'Bree' and short for Brianna) is an aspiring rapper. Her family is falling on hard times, and her rapping success may be the only way forward. On the Come Up follows Bri's story as she navigates prejudice, hip-hop, relationships and dreams.
What I really liked about this was the richness of culture that continued from The Hate U Give. Garden Heights feels like a real place, and the characters are completely believable. In this novel, the cast of characters was more diverse, with more LGBTQ+ representation, which I appreciated... in theory (more on this later). Also, had this book been written by a different author, the hip-hop included could have been really jarring – not that I know anything whatsoever about hip-hop. However, Thomas has experience in this area and it worked perfectly. And yes, it is certainly appropriate for hip-hop novices like myself. Oh, and one last thing: as a geek myself I did smile a lot at the Star Wars references, though I can see how they'd be annoying (and I really need to see Black Panther! Now!).
Okay, now for the negatives... To be entirely honest, I felt the plot was a bit non-existent. It didn't seem to have much in terms of structure, and as I was reading I felt myself thinking 'ohh, this was written so this would happen, and then this could happen'. Basically, I wasn't immersed in the plot so it felt a bit orchestrated.
SPOILERS FROM NOW
Sonny's plot line! Argh! I was really on board with this, with the reference to reading Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli - which is great, by the way - but it spiralled until it felt like Thomas had included a sub-plot that was basically Simon Vs. but really not as good. I felt like Albertalli practically deserved crediting for it. (I know Thomas and Albertalli are friends, but even so.) Sonny and Miles deserved better... they're kinda cute together as well?? It was really obvious that Miles was Rapid, but that's not really the point. So I didn't like that rep. And what about Aunt Pooh? I mean, can you really write a book with so much emphasis on discrimination and not explore the queer black woman's story even a little? I swear her girlfriend just vanished with a couple of slapdash excuses. Honestly, most of the LGBTQ+ rep in this seemed like it was thrown in 'because I'm so diverse!'. That was super annoying.
Talking of relationships, I honestly did feel a bit 'Argh!' about Bri's romantic plot, too. I read another review which said it got in the way a bit, and I have to agree. Malik himself seemed a bit bland, come to think of it, actually. We never really understood what made him so great, which did make Bri/Curtis very obvious.
And Aunt Pooh again! I really, really liked her so I hate to say this... but the whole going to prison plot did come across as a bit unnecessary for the story? Like, what was the point of including it? I'm up for debate on this, though.
Okay, last thing. The ending. Would Bri's grandparents really have had such a speedy change of heart? What on earth brought that on? That seemed extremely out of character. Gah.
So yeah. I felt a bit let down by On the Come Up, sadly. I loved the setting, I liked Bri, I liked her family (though it wasn't anything like the loveable awesomeness of Starr's family in The Hate U Give), I liked the hip-hop and learning about something I had no clue about before. I just didn't like some of the other stuff at all. If you read this after The Hate U Give, I would warn you that you may be disappointed, though, as I said, comparison is a little unfair. But then again, it's still worth a read, probably. Yeah, it swears, and yeah, there is stuff about drugs and gangs, but seriously, that's life for some people, so please don't not read because of that. I'd say it's suitable 12+ if you're a relatively mature reader.
Oh, and like the true geek I am, I'm ending with a Hamilton quote to sum up my thoughts: you could've done so much more if you only had time...
The reason I gave this book only 3 stars, even though I really enjoyed it? The stereotypes seemed to be over-inflated. I am not black, or from the hood, or even American. Anything like this is, of course, wildly personal, and maybe the characters, dialogue etc really do represent this group of people, but it's not something I have ever experienced and it felt a world away from what I know. This is fine, particularly with an own voices book such as this, but I did work with gangs for a few years, and it just did not ring true, purely based on my own experiences. I will also note that this is a Young Adult book, so having comically-extreme characters fits well with the genre. For me, it was just a little disappointing.
For anyone wanting to read this as a YA fiction novel about a female rapper - I would 100% recommend it.
The main character (Bri) stands up for herself and I think it is a very inspirational book.
Also like The Hate You Give
Just proves when the odds are against you, sticking at what you believe in will take you very far.
I love Bri, her family, and her friends so damn much. She feels like a real person and not just a character, and her personality and voice are so strong. Even when she's stubborn and wrong you just can't help but root for her. The family, friends, and other supporting characters are similarly compelling and well fleshed out - even down to the judgemental turds at church!
There’s something about Bri that is just so relatable. This book will speak volumes to kids in similar situations, but I honestly think there’s something in Bri that everybody can relate to no matter what walk of life you come from. Whether it’s how she’s treated as a woman, losing her father, her mother’s history, chasing her dream, forging a name in a male-dominated industry, or going through rough times financially, there’s something that will speak to everyone. (If not, soz you’re probably Voldemort)
I liked how On the Come Up references THUG but was very much its own story. Angie Thomas references Khalil’s murder and the subsequent riots, and the discourse about police brutality and racism continues, but Bri is allowed the space to have her own journey. The events of THUG obviously touched everybody, but the community is so vast, has so much going on, and even more story to tell.
(And on the subject of references, I SEE that subtle reference to Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda! ;______;)
In addition to continuing the police brutality and racism conversation, the book explores themes of poverty, drug addiction, drug dealing, absent parents, gang activity, and classism and privilege within the Garden Heights community. It also explores themes of hope, using your voice, knowing yourself and not sacrificing your identity for someone else’s vision, and knowing that it’s okay to ask for help.
Along with well-rounded characters and interesting themes, the story itself is strong and well paced. You can anticipate the beats that it’ll hit (no pun intended), but the way in which Angie Thomas gets there is just a joy to read. I loved her writing style and it had the perfect amount of happiness and sadness, peaks and troughs, tension and relief.
I was really worried about how this would measure up to THUG, but I can confidently and truthfully say I love On the Come Up even more. It's a strong novel that stands on its own two feet and I would give this a billion stars if I could. ;___; MY HEART.