While I was among the many readers who loved Angie Thomas' debut, The Hate U Give, I wasn't certain that On the Come Up should go on my reading list. Did I really want to read a book about hip hop--a topic that didn't interest me--and a sophomore effort at that (historically a disappointment for many authors)?
I tentatively started it, but immediately I couldn't put it down. I will dare to say that On the Come Up may be even better than The Hate U Give. Teen protagonist Bri is a little less likable than Starr but Thomas makes you root for her just as much.
That need for likability is part of the point. Bri is an aspiring hip hop artist, supremely talented and the daughter of a late underground legend. She views success in hip hop as not just a dream, but an imperative; her family is on the verge of eviction, the power is off, and the fridge is empty.
But the path to success is fraught with compromise, particularly when you're young, black, poor, and in hip hop. Bri soon finds herself pulled between her own ideals and the persona the industry wants her to adopt. Thomas perfectly captures how exhausting and frustrating it is when the world wants you to be one way for its own money-making purposes, but also expects perfection and humility from you for its own comfort. Any sign of anger or frustration is used against you, words are twisted, intentions are misconstrued. It's no-win, all the time.
This is an eye-opening book for many reasons, not least of which is the incredible talent and creativity of freestyle rappers. It's a world I'm unfamiliar with, and my respect for it increased 100-fold just by reading this amazing book. Read it now.
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This is the highly anticipated second novel by Angie Thomas, the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning The Hate U Give.
Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least win her first battle. As the daughter of an underground hip hop legend who died right before he hit big, Bri’s got massive shoes to fill.
But it’s hard to get your come up when you’re labeled a hoodlum at school, and your fridge at home is empty after your mom loses her job. So Bri pours her anger and frustration into her first song, which goes viral…for all the wrong reasons.
Bri soon finds herself at the center of a controversy, portrayed by the media as more menace than MC. But with an eviction notice staring her family down, Bri doesn’t just want to make it—she has to. Even if it means becoming the very thing the public has made her out to be.
Insightful, unflinching, and full of heart, On the Come Up is an ode to hip hop from one of the most influential literary voices of a generation. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; and about how, especially for young black people, freedom of speech isn’t always free.