I can’t believe I’ve already finished my first book of 2020! I will admit that I started it on New Years Eve 2019, but I’m still counting it towards 2020 since I did complete it on New Years Day!
I loved Angie Thomas’s first book, The Hate U Give. It was such an important book, one that didn’t shy away from tense, real-life issues that continue to happen right here in America to this day. I had high expectations for On the Come Up. It did not disappoint.
Bri is a sixteen year old high school student who wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. If she can’t be one of the greatest rappers of all time, she at least wants to make it out of her neighborhood, Garden Heights. When Bri was younger, her dad was killed before he made it big as an underground rap star. He was a legend in Garden Heights, so not only did Bri have to grow up without a father, she doesn’t have him there to support her music career.
Not too far into the book, we find out that Bri’s mom loses her job and struggles to make ends meet. Bri’s older brother Trey is working at a local pizza joint to help out their mom with the bills, but Bri still feels some sense of responsibility for also helping out. In her eyes, it is now even more important for her to make it as a rapper.
One morning, Bri gets singled out by the two security guards at her high school for a second search of her bag, and soon she finds herself swung to the ground for resisting. The reason she was resisting? She had been selling candy on school premises to try to buy herself a new pair of Timberland boots, and that’s against school rules.
The video of the incident gets leaked, and people begin to call her a drug dealer. Angry and resentful, Bri writes and records a song about the incident at a local producer’s studio. The lyrics to this song are downright amazing – another piece that Angie Thomas did a phenomenal job on. Eventually Bri uploads the song to a streaming service, and it goes VIRAL. People love it. People hate it. But people can’t stop listening to it.
Soon the lyrics begin to get misconstrued by people all over the country, and a reporter even creates a petition to have the song taken down for inappropriate lyrics. Bri never intended for the song to be used as a call to action, she just wanted to write about the weight of everyone’s expectations and misconceptions.
Bri signs on with a well-known local producer who promises her a record deal, but the only catch is that he needs Bri to play into a role that she doesn’t think she can, or wants, to live up to.
While all of this is going on, Bri also navigates her way through normal teenage issues – first crushes, teenage love, her relationships with her mom/brother/grandparents, and also the worry about whether or not her mom will be able to find a new job so that they could stay in their house and afford food, power, gas, etc.
One of the first things I noticed about this book was that Bri is much more outspoken than Starr from The Hate U Give. There were times where Bri was less like-able than Starr, but I enjoyed her sass and her true feelings. What she goes through in the book is stressful for anyone, let alone a teenager who is trying to figure out her place in the world.
I flew through this book, and I did not want to put it down anytime I had to go to sleep, or go to work, or do anything else, really. Just like The Hate U Give, this book tackles issues that can be hard to face. Aunt Pooh, Bri’s aunt, is deep into drug dealing and all Bri wants is her to be able to support herself some other way. Bri’s mom is a recovering drug addict who has to face that question/hesitation from people every day while she is trying to find a job.
Overall I highly recommend this book not only for the awareness of some of the issues tackled in the book, but also for the pop culture references as well as the song lyrics used in the book.
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 (AKA I truly enjoyed reading it and I highly recommend you add it to your TBR list!)