Thomas, Angie. On the Come Up. Fiction. Balzer & Bray, 02/2019. 447pp. $18.99. 978-0-06-249856-4. OUTSTANDING. GRADES 8-12.
Thomas takes an incisive and nuanced look at perceptions and personas of black teens in this stunning follow-up to The Hate U Give (2017). Bri lives with her mother and older brother; they both have jobs, but the family is barely scraping by. Bri’s dream is “the come up”: to claim back the power over her life by making it as a rapper which, to her initially, means making money. As the daughter of murdered local rap legend Lawless, Bri already has status in Garden Heights, and her brilliant performance at a rap battle helps to solidify that. So when she records an anger-fueled rap that plays with black stereotypes, many take it at face value, and she has a tough decision to make: does she want to persist with this potentially lucrative “hoodlum” image or does she stay true to herself? Narrator Bri has all the hotheadedness of a teen and makes some mistakes that have consequences, but her raps jump off the page with rhythm and edge, and her narrative wordplay shows her burgeoning skills. Will the loving support from her family and friends (all main characters are black or brown) and her innate sense of self-worth help guide Bri through this challenging time? Hayley Beale, San Francisco University High School