On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Published February 5, 2019 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: Contemporary | Audience: Young Adult
Rating: 5 stars
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 was kind of nervous going into this book for several reasons. The biggest reason is that I lost interest after the casting kerfuffle with The Hate U Give happened. Despite that, I still recommended it to friends and the library. So, when the library notified me that they purchased a physical copy and the audiobook, I decided to give it a chance.
I’m genuinely happy I didn’t play myself and skip this because On the Come Up was SO GOOD. I listened to the audiobook, which is narrated by Bahni Turpin (we need to give Bahni her fucking flowers because she’s a phenomenal narrator). I throughly enjoyed On the Come Up and I think I like it more than The Hate U Give.
On the Come Up has so much heart and soul. Bri was such a refreshing and relatable character to read about. Her best friends were a breath of fresh. The pop culture references were funny. Bri’s bars were on point and I cheered her on every time. I loved her knowledge of hip hop and her familial support (her relationship with her family, especially her aunt, was so amazing).
I can’t quite explain why I like this more than The Hate U Give. Maybe it’s because it’s not entirely focused on black trauma. Maybe, it’s because I could see myself re-reading On the Come Up whereas I haven’t read The Hate U Give since I finished it in February 2017. Or maybe, it’s because I found Bri and her love for hip hop and rap battles relatable.
Overall, On the Come Up was great and further solidifies Angie Thomas’ place in this industry. The book does address some very important topics, but it doesn’t set out to solve these issues and make political statements. This gives us a different black experience and I appreciate that. My only critique of it is that there wasn’t enough rap battles because BRI GOT BARS Y’ALL!
If you’re in the mood for… a contemporary novel about hip hop, pop culture references, and a young black girl simply existing, you’ll enjoy this. Highly recommend the audiobook because Bahni Turpin’s flow is nice.