Monday, December 30, 2019

On the Come Up A Powerful Novel About Following Your Dreams and Staying True to Yourself

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

I usually write my own plot summaries for the books I review, but sometimes the publisher does such a nice, succinct job of it that there's no point in even trying to reinvent the wheel.  Such is the case with On the Come Up, a sophomore novel by Angie Thomas:

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.

As a 40-something-year-old white woman who lives in a gated, upper middle-class neighborhood in the heart of suburbia and listens to nothing more hood than "Ice, Ice Baby" every so often, I'm the first to admit that I am so not the target audience for books like On the Come Up.  Still, I appreciate this novel and others like it for helping to expand the reaches of YA lit to include depictions of teenagers of all races, faiths, ideologies, cultures, etc.  That being said, I personally found On the Come Up a bit difficult to read, particularly because it uses strong language (F-bombs in every other sentence) and lots of rap/hip hop terms and related lingo that I didn't always understand.  Beyond that, though, On the Come Up features a strong, likable heroine who's trying to both accept the hand she's been dealt and rise above it by following her dreams.  Though flawed, her friends and family are likable, authentic characters as well.  Plotwise, the novel is compelling but also wordier than necessary.  Overall, though,
it's an intriguing read that teaches some important lessons about family, friendship, racism, standing up for yourself, and forgiveness.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of SLAY by Brittney Morris)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, blood/gore, mild sexual content, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

1 comment:

  1. I liked this book a lot, but The Hate U Give was even better for me. She such an impressive author.

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