On the Come Up, by Angie Thomas
Published by Walker Books
Reviewed by KRIS Williams
This is the long-awaited new book by Angie Thomas who has been called the ‘voice of a generation’ after the release of her first book The Hate U Give. On the Come Up is about rap and hip-hop and trying to make your dreams come true even though everything seems stacked against you.
Brianna ‘Bri’ Jackson is sixteen years old, from a working-class black family and wants to be the greatest rapper the world has ever seen. She likes to keep a low profile at school but like a lot of teens, she is impulsive, angry, gets into fights and doesn’t always make the right decisions.
She wants to get out of Garden Heights, a poor part of town where gangs run the neighbourhood and drugs are everywhere. Even her aunt deals drugs. Her mum became addicted to drugs after her dad ‘King’, an underground rap legend, was shot by a rival gang. Her mother has been clean for eight years but things are not easy. She loses her job, they get behind in the rent and bills and have no food. Her brother Trey does all he can but it is not always enough. All Bri wants is to make life better for her family even if it means giving up ‘important parts of herself for a shot at fame and fortune.’
After an incident at school where she is already been branded as trouble Bri puts all her feelings and frustrations into a song that goes viral. The trouble is that everyone who hears the song puts their own meaning to the words and before long Bri is thought of as a dangerous angry black girl and a hoodlum.
‘You know what white kids in the suburbs love? Listening to shit that scares their parents,” he tells her. “You scare the hell outta their folks, they’ll flock to you like birds.’
Is this what she has to become to make it?
There is so much in this book. Too much for this brief review. On The Come Up is about music, family, love and friendship, racism, discrimination, growing up, stereotypes and trying to make things better. It is a powerful book that I have no hesitation in recommending not only to it’s intended young adult audience but to anyone who enjoys a good story.
‘You’ll never silence me and you’ll never kill my dream, Just recognize when you say brilliant that you’re also saying Bri.’