On the Come Up | Angie Thomas | Book Review


PLOT: 4/5
CLIMAX: 4.5/5

It is kinda messed up. Here my brother is, doing everything right, and nothing’s coming from it. Meanwhile, Aunt Pooh’s doing everything we’ve been told not to do, and she’s giving us food when we need it. That’s how it goes though. The drug dealers in my neighborhood aren’t struggling. Everybody else is.” 
― Angie Thomas, On the Come Up

My musings

Last year, I was bowled over by her debut novel, The Hate U Give and this year it is her latest that has me completely hooked. Angie Thomas shows us a world that is inherently different from ours and yet so similar. Her books are powerful and so vocal about the stark realities of black people in America that it shocks me every time that I read her. Read on to know more about my thoughts on Angie’s latest, On the Come Up; a book that should definitely be on your TBR list.

What to expect?

Expect a young adult fiction that tells us a heart-warming story of a black teenager. Expect a book that is as much about diversity as it is about the ‘rebellious’ teen spirit. Expect a book that is much different from your regular cliché YA. Finally, expect a book that takes us into the uniquely interesting world of rappers and rapping.

Who can read?

The book is written in a simple language but it does have a lot of slangs and uses an informal type of English that is typically associated with African Americans. It might take a while for regular Indian readers to get used to the language but once you are in the flow, it’s a really smooth ride thereafter.

Let’s talk about the storyline

Brianna or Bri as everyone calls her is a sixteen-year-old girl from a black neighborhood. Rapping is in her blood and she dreams of becoming one of the greatest rappers of all time. Back when she was just a small kid, her father – the famous underground rap legend – was killed in a gang war. Now, Bri has the name and reputation of her father to live up to.

But as she forays into the world of rapping, Bri realizes that she has a lot to worry about – what kind of image she is creating? Will people read too much into her lyrics and assume too much about her?

With no food on the table and no electricity in her home, Bri wants to do her bit by putting money on the table. But will her actions reflect her intentions? This is the powerful story of a young girl who dares to dream big and who makes some stupid and some unavoidable mistakes along the way.

How good are the characters?

Bri is one of the most flawed yet powerful women that I’ve read about in a long time. She is stubborn and hot-headed, she has her own idea of right and wrong, and is immature and impulsive. But at the same time, she is a person whom you can easily relate to, whom you can easily be friends with and, whom you definitely become invested in.

Let’s be real: We’re black kids from one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. All it takes is one of us messing up, and suddenly all of us messed up.”

Angie Thomas

I love how the inner conflicts of her mind shape up major events in the story, I also love how she makes mistakes – a lot of them and is even unwilling to learn from them. At some level, Brianna is all of us and then some more. She can be ruthlessly selfish and yet at the core, she is a deeply passionate and caring being. And that’s why I love her character so much.

Other characters too have a certain depth about them that easily makes them likable to the reader.

What about the author’s writing style?

Angie Thomas has a way with words and her storytelling skills are exceptional. Even though the plot isn’t a great one and follows a much simpler and linear approach, I love how everything else about this book is just perfect.

Character dynamics are something that one should definitely look forward to. Also, worth mentioning is the local touch that is delivered well. The author’s background does come in handy but the hard work doesn’t go unnoticed. The book has a kind of impact that very few books manage to bring about.

Be it the starkly contrasting realities of the black and white neighborhoods or the abject poverty that some of the characters live in, be it the unfair treatment of black children in schools or the fact that drug-sellers are better off than college-educated youngsters – the book exposes some ugly truths and sends out a powerful message to its readers.

Is the climax good enough?

The climax turned out much better than I had expected and it wouldn’t be wrong to say that the book ended on a satisfactory note.

It all boils down to the entertainment quotient.

Overall, On the Come Up has everything to keep the reader hooked onto it right till the very end. A strong female character, simple and easy language, fast-paced narration, teenage group dynamics, local influences of the neighborhood, the exciting and tantalizing world of rapping, and a powerful underlying theme – all of it together makes sure that On the Come Up turns out to be a worthy read.

The final verdict

Much recommended. Definitely read it!

Pick it up

  • If you enjoy YA fiction.
  • If you enjoy power-packed stories of hope and persistence.
  • If you enjoy diversity reads.
  • If you are even mildly interested in rapping and rappers.
  • If the story of a black female rapper struggling with poverty sounds exciting to you.

Skip it

Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of On the Come Up using the link below.


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