Brianna wants to be a rap star. She flows like no other. She writes like no other. But, with hunger, gang violence, and the reality’s of being a poor black girl looming around her, will her dreams come true? Or, will others’ assumptions of her get the best of her and cloud the image staring back in the mirror?
In Angie Thomas’ second novel, or, better yet titled, her clear avoidance of the sophomore slump like a boss, answers display themselves with the murkiness real life grants us. As I read this story, I wanted to not state my fangirl feelings, but I’ll bite. I enjoyed Thomas’ second book more than her debut, the wonderful The Hate U Give, which saw a film adaptation and still sits on the New York Times Bestseller list for Young Adults at #2, while her second novel sits at #1.
No strange feat. Thomas delivers a book for not only those seeking representation, but for those understanding the importance of not only dreams, but for those “having your back” and supporting them. But, why do I enjoy this novel more than her debut?
While the previously mentioned themes permeate her first novel, Thomas’s newly-minted main protagonist, Brianna Jackson, offers readers a stronger voice. Yes, she’s a black girl, like Starr, facing insurmountable odds, like a rough neighborhood, the effects of poverty, and being misunderstood.
Slight tangent. I enjoy Thomas’ world-building. If you see some aspects found previously in T.H.U.G., I believe it’s on purpose. No spoilers though. Read her book to found them.
While Starr desperately wanted to fight police brutality as a whole for her neighborhood as a theme, Brianna’s themes are more individualistic as she desperately wants to achieve her dreams for herself and her family for another kind of survival. Her voice appears stronger because, unlike Starr, she faces hunger and cold after her mother loses her job. Yes, police brutality and gang violence still play a role in Brianna’s world, but her belly aches and she wants financial security for her family immediately. So, push comes to shove, her world’s a tad shrunken to individual need before the grander scale of neighborhood themes.
Her dream of rapping feels more tangible for survival as she can immediately achieve them with the right help.
Once again, Thomas’ writes a strong family presence around her protagonist. Her mother, Jay, a former drug addict, parents with love and care, and her brother, Trey, supports them while holding his dreams also. Furthermore, included in her support system are her paternal grandparents and friends, Malik, Sonny, and Curtis. I would have liked a female friend for her, but support groups diversify themselves daily, so who am I to judge? Yet, she has her Aunt Pooh, so she counts, even though the latter has troubles of her own to consider.
Thomas writes without pandering. She paints a picture that’s realistic with teens that sound their age and adults involved in their lives, creating mistakes of their own and underlining how we’re all doing the best that we can, even when choices are wrong.
While geared towards teens and young adults, older readers will enjoy its fast-pacing and realistic nature, On The Come Up gives us proper hip-hop history and references. For example, when Brianna freestyles to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones”, even if you’re a casual hip-hop listener, you hear the beat and find yourself in the audience listening and cheering.
My heart raced.
Thomas writes another fine novel deserving of a read without age requirement. Open your mind. Never assume. Read this book.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐