Angie Thomas debuted with The Hate U Give last year to VERY HIGH praise. Everyone who was a part of the online book community on any social platform or who read Young Adult books knew of Angie Thomas. And she deserves all the hype. The Hate U Give is a book that can completely change your view point on the #blacklivesmatter movement. It will remove your rose-tinted glasses and make you see the reality.
The Hate U Give had a HUGE impact on me. I know of most movements happening around the world through twitter but it was always on a surface level. I cared about the #blacklivesmatter movement but not that much because I am not living in America, where the movement is predominantly based. The Hate U Give shone a light on the movement and the lives of Black people in America. It showed the ugly truths without sugar coating and forced the readers to take notice.
I had high expectations for On The Come Up because of it’s predecessor, and I wasn’t disappointed.
“I was floating after my battle, for real. That feeling when the crowd cheered for me is probably what getting high is like, and I’m addicted.”Bri, after rapping in front of an audience
On The Come Up follows Bri, a sixteen year old girl who’s dream is to become a rapper like her late father who is popularly known as Lawless. Law is so popular that everyone knows of him, and he’s a legend in amongst Black people. He was the person who made it out of the bad streets and made a name for himself.
Bri got her talent for rapping from her dad, but her ambitions are all her own. She hates that she is always linked to her dad, and that it’s hard for people to know her as Bri and not as Law’s little girl. Her love for rapping comes from her dad, but her words are all her own. Bri says that he can’t be credited for her words since he died when she was five. Her first mission is to make a name for herself. She wants to be known as Bri, the brilliant rapper, and not Law’s daughter.
The book is way more than that, though. Bri’s ambition and drive to succeed as a rapper is the main focus but there are other themes in the book as well.
One significant theme in the book is Bri’s family’s financial struggles. Her mum and brother work hard to send her to school on the good side of town but they barely scrape by. Any hit to their finance is a big hit. The lack of money is glaringly obvious and weeds itself into everything in Bri’s life. Bri’s mother won’t let her work, arguing that she should only focus on her studies, but Bri wants to help out. It definitely wouldn’t hurt if she earned from her music.
“I mean, it’s one thing to wanna do something. It’s another to think it’s possible. Rapping has been my dream forever, but dreams aren’t real. You wake up from them or reality makes them seem stupid. Trust, every time my fridge is almost empty, all of my dreams seem stupid.”– Bri
Another significant theme is the discrimination Bri faces everyday in school. Bri’s mum is adamant that Bri will study in a good school where entrances don’t have metal detectors and half the students aren’t into drugs. Meaning, not the school in her neighbourhood where most Black kids go to. Bri, along with a few other Black kids, goes to a school which is predominantly White in people.
Through Bri, On The Come Up shows just how different school is for Black kids. While most of her classmates usually get warnings for talking back or creating trouble, Bri gets sent to the principal’s office for just rolling her eyes. But it doesn’t stop there. Bri is thrown on the ground and her hands are held together by the school guards just because she smuggled in candy. Candy. Bri is suspended from school for the same while the guards only faced a few days off work. Despite promising that strict measures would be taken on consideration of the situation, the principal puts the guards back to work like nothing happened.
Bri is shaken up by the experience of being thrown on the ground and being falsely accused of dealing drugs to cover up for the guards. School is supposed to be the place where you don’t have to worry about anything other than studying. But it has suddenly turned into a nightmare for Bri. Even when she and her friends protest, it falls on deaf ears. It’s glaring that they have no power in school.
“You know how many rich white folks come to the courthouse on drug possession?”
“A whole lot,” says Jay.
“Too many,” Aunt ’Chelle says. “Every single one gets a little slap on the wrist and goes right back into society, like it’s all good. Black folks or poor folks get on drugs?”
“We’re ruined for life,” Jay says
On The Come Up is not a book that is heavy on highlighting the discrimination which favours the White. It’s a normal Young Adult book talking about a girl who wants to chase her dreams and make them true. But it includes the discrimination themes because every Black person’s daily life includes it. You can’t leave it out from the story because it is in their lives without question.
This book is a must-read because, not only does it have realistic characters who are flawed, it also talks about some pretty heavy themes for a Young Adult book and it is done perfectly. Angie Thomas has written the plot such that the reader gets sucked into the story and feels everything. She balances the book well with scenes and emotions of all kind. On The Come Up is a book you should read because it will make an impact on you.
Until next time,
Happy Reading !