Title/Author: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Page Count: 464 Pages
Genre: Own Voices YA Contemporary
Obtained: Borrowed from my local library
GR Summary: 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.
Character | Atmosphere | Writing Style
There are a decent amount of characters in this novel that make an appearance and Angie Thomas does an amazing job making sure that even if they’re just appearing on the page briefly that they have their own distinctive voice. I loved reading from Bri’s perspective and getting her inner monologue. Her development inwardly wasn’t as strong as I would have liked but it wasn’t terribly disappointing. After all, no teenager has everything figured out the first time they learn something. So it wasn’t disappointing in the slightest. I just would have liked to see her learning how to better control her temper or at least recognizing the consequences of the things she says a bit more.
While I love T.H.U.G and On the Come Up, the struggle I always have with character driven books is that more often than not, the setting descriptions get shafted. Now with that said, I really appreciate that in T.H.U.G and On the Come Up. Angie Thomas is an expert at ramping up the situational tension and making the setting distinctive yet generic enough that readers can easily place themselves in the main character’s shoes. Compared to T.H.U.G the racial conflict is far more muted, set as more of an underlying issue but not the main show. Thomas, however, really made Bri’s economic situation easily accessible for reader’s who may not have ever had to deal with the struggle of trying to focus on school when you’re not even sure if you’re going to be able to eat tonight or have light to do your homework by. As someone who has been there throughout my teens and early twenties, it really hit home. And to add the stress of living in a neighborhood where gang violence and drugs are prominent makes Bri’s desperation to launch her career even though she’s only 16 make perfect sense.
Angie Thomas does it again! Her writing feels so authentic for her character’s age and situation. The inclusion of Bri’s lyrics and how her mind captures words and phrases only to turn them into lines and verses for her music is just spectacularly done. It never feels awkwardly placed, just an added layer to the story. Thomas captures the essence of the teenage struggle and interweaves the struggles of inner-city black kids without making it overly gritty to the point of absurdity. The way the teens talk in this novel is very much the way the kids I work with talk and it was very honest and realistic which was very much appreciated.
Plot | Intrigue | Logic | Enjoyment
I loved the plot concept of this novel. Maybe because I’m a sucker for underdog stories. Bri is both relatable and unreliable in all of the best ways. I was rooting for her the entire time to either get her shit together or to kill it in the studio. While there were some moments where I felt that certain scenes were too explained and others not expanded on enough, I never felt that the story as a whole was dragging or too rushed. Fair warning, there IS like 2 seconds worth of a love triangle in this novel but it gets squashed down real quick. The progression of the romance was really well done and felt like a natural layer to Bri’s high school experience without it becoming the focus of the story. It also wasn’t ever too cheesy, except when it needed to be.
While I was invested in this novel, I didn’t have too much of an issue putting it down when I needed to. There were very few chapters that ended with me needing to keep going in order to make sure all of the cinnamon rolls were okay. And that’s okay! It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story at all. I was invested enough to keep reading Bri’s story even if it didn’t mean I needed to read it all in one sitting. I think for me the fact that in many ways her situation was very similar to mine at her age just hit too close to home sometimes which made it hard to get through without taking a moment to breathe and remind myself that I got out and that Bri could get out too.