Title : On the Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Published: February 5, 2019
My Rating: 5/5
5 Stars for On the Come up! Angie Thomas has created an amazing world.
Brianna, or “Bri” wants nothing else than to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a rapper, but when her mom loses her job and her brothers paycheck isn’t enough to pay their bills, being a rapper becomes a necessity. A path to making it in the music industry clears when Bri, who is one of the few black students who attend an arts school, is pinned to the ground by a security guard for having candy in her back pack. Rumors immediately spread that she is a drug dealer and because the security guards always target the Black and Latinx community the students decide to protest. Bri lets out her growing frustration into a song that becomes viral and the student protest anthem when people find true meaning in the words she speaks.
Honestly, It’s hard to talk about On the Come Up without thinking of THUG because while they are great books as stand-alones, together they teach a very important lesson: people who grew up in the same place are still different from each other. Both characters are victims of the same system but the consequences they each suffer for it are different.
Starr is a character much easier to like and it is very clear from the beginning that she is the victim. Her relationship with friends are family are…easier Bri on the other hand is more complex. She is intense, fiery, resentful, and impulsive… at times seems a bit rude and has a complicated relationship with pretty much everyone. Her family’s situation is also different from Starr’s: her mom has been clean for a few years from substance abuse and has lost her job, her brother graduated college but can’t find a job outside the Garden and works at a pizza joint to help out the family, and Bri’s aunt is a gang member; while the family would like for her to get out of that situation, it is with her money that they are often able to catch up on their rent or buy groceries.
Regardless of the differences in both books, one thing that I love they have in common is the portrayal of family. No matter what happens the families stick together and help each other out. The presence of Bri’s grandparents and their church friends reflects the difference in generations but also gives us some laughable moments with all the shade being thrown. Just like with the previous book, it isn’t lost on me that Angie Thomas is fighting the “broken family” stereotype.
The friendships are just as important in this book and the speech stays true to that of teenagers. I actually laughed with some of the things the characters said to each other at times. They have a couple quarrels but not matter what happens they have each other’s back.
And the rapping! I didin’t know what to expect and it was GREAT. The way Angie Thomas shows us the mental process of composing rap is truly remarkable. We are able to see how Bri’s mind works and how, from an unfortunate situation, she creates art. Furthermore, Angie is able to show to the reader the importance of Rap and Hip Hop for the black community as they are only able to truly express their fears and frustration though music. She also addresses sexism and double standards in the music industry and the hypocrisy of white people who are pro-gun but anti-rap.
I feel like Angie is truly educating all of us and with each book she helps us understand the complexities of the issues she addresses. This book is Amazing and I cannot recommend it enough. It is well written, a page turner, intense, charming, and brilliant. The characters stay positive and work hard to overcome their problems while teaching us the most important message: speak up.