Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.
I don’t think any words can really do justice to the beauty of the words inside this book. I’m no poet or rapper, and rap is not a world I get, at all, but this transcends all that to speak to everyone.
Bri is a really relatable main character for me – she’s so scared but so quick to lash out at the world she sees around her, a world that isn’t always friendly and welcoming. Angie Thomas does a great job of making that understandable to someone who has never had to go through that, and to make me try and understand what it’s like.
In many ways, OTCU isn’t as powerful as THUG, but I think it tells just as important a message about the state of our world. From the differences in how Bri, and her friends and family, are treated in the world, to in community prejudices, to how black rappers are portrayed both in the media and by white people in general. Bri’s lyrics getting misused felt so sadly realistic to the fake news and misleading headlines I see all around me, and that’s on a national level – in many ways, it is more damaging when used like in OTCU because it’s in a community and also about a teen girl.
I sort of want this to have a follow up, and I see how it could, if Thomas were ever in a place to write one. I think it ends with open hope, something that’s also important.
4.5 stars and another great book from Angie Thomas.
Buy On The Come Up from Amazon UK.