“Who are you? of the millions and billions of people in the world, you’re the only person who can answer that. Not people online, or at your school. I can’t even answer that. You’re the only one who can say who you are with authority. So who are you?”
On the Come Up is the highly anticipated sophomore album from New York Times best-selling author Angie Thomas. By now you should have already read and watched or at least heard of The Hate U Give and therefore you should know how powerful Angie Thomas’ prose is. It feels fun and personal but then hits home with some real truth about today’s society.
Sixteen-year-old Bri Jackson dreams of being a rapper and On the Come Up is her story. With an uncertain home life and people’s opinions and prejudices on every side believing, Bri faces tough decisions and rough situations.
As a character, I honestly didn’t connect with Bri as much I wanted to. She was definitely well developed but I didn’t feel a strong attachment to her. Her supporting characters though, definitely stole my heart. Curtis was amazing, silly and sweet and he showed real character growth (I won’t spoil it, but he definitely was not the same from beginning to end.) Sonny was funny and balanced Bri and her other friend Malik out. Bri’s brother Trey was also an interesting character, he and Bri have a close relationship which I adore. By far however, my favorite character was Supreme. Bri’s dead father’s ex manager, he wasn’t a main character but he had a hand throughout the narrative. He was mysterious and ambiguous, a real dark horse for sure.
The story touched on a lot of current issues: Trey earned a college degree but struggles to find a job, Bri’s grandparents go to a church filled with members who profess Jesus but would rather gossip about people behind their backs, and Aunt Pooh stays involved with horrible things because it’s where she feels accepted and can take care of her family. Ultimately this story is a narrative of identity. Bri grapples with being a black girl in a white world, being seen as aggressive and a threat for things that are tolerated in others. Is Bri the criminal and hoodlum her school and strangers on Twitter believe she is? Is she a carbon copy of her father like her neighborhood thinks? This book drives us readers to wrestle with these questions as Bri does.
Don’t fear though, this book isn’t just heavy existential questions, it’s got a lot of humor and a plethora of references for hip-hop heads. I especially liked getting to read Bri’s rhymes as they appear in the book, it’s evident that Angie Thomas used to be a rapper and I’m all the way here for it. Another thing I love is how, like T.H.U.G, On the Come Up shows the beauty of a place others are quick to write-off. Both books are set in the Garden, which feels like a reimagining of Chicago’s ghetto, and while outsiders see a dangerous area unfit to live, the residents see hard-working people who are proud of where they come from, a neighborhood that supports their own.
Often, it’s hard to follow a mega success like The Hate U Give, but Angie Thomas delivered a solid story. She’s definitely an author to rely on for some hard-hitting, unapologetic, and fun books.