In July, my husband and I did our first joint book review for We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. You can read it here. We had so much fun doing this we decided to discuss On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, who also wrote the famous The Hate U Give. We both read her debut novel and loved it, so we wanted to give her second book a chance. This post will be structured like my regular reviews. You will see my thoughts down below and then his. We will compare notes on plot, characters, writing style and an overall star-rating. I hope you enjoy!
Much like The Hate U Give, this novel takes place in the same world – Garden Heights. Bri, a talented rapper, wants to make it big so she can help out her struggling family. When she begins to gain fame and attention, she is forced to choose between who she really is and who others think she should be.
What I liked about the plot was that it featured references to The Hate U Give without naming actual characters. It told another important story about how African Americans are misrepresented and treated unfairly based on the colour of their skin. It also highlighted the struggles faced in the rougher parts of the neighbourhood, what with gang wars, drug-dealing and threats of violence. I will say, the ending went in an unexpected direction for me. I did not envision it unfolding as it did and I felt it was quite abrupt/rushed, but overall it packed the same emotional punch as Angie’s debut novel.
Bri was a strong and fiery protagonist. Her impulsiveness and hot temper got her into trouble many times throughout the story, but I admired how she never backed down from injustice. Her mother, who is referred to as Jay, has only recently come back into the picture after battling a drug addiction for years. Their dynamic slowly evolves as the story moves along. Another interesting character is Bri’s Aunt Pooh who is a member of the Garden Disciples, a street gang in Garden Heights. She is notorious for being overly protective of Bri; even if that means getting her hands dirty in the process. One review said this book was too romance heavy, but I didn’t agree. I found the romance tasteful and satisfying. Despite all that Bri goes through, she is still a normal teenager experiencing attraction to boys and surviving school.
THE WRITING STYLE
Angie Thomas’s writing style is her strength. She is so gifted at making important statements that are thought-provoking, all the while providing laughs and an investment in her central characters. She is also talented at creating familial bonds. In both her novels, family is an important theme. You get a real sense of the neighbourhood, friends and church that serve as a community to the protagonist. Also, Angie Thomas used to be a rapper, so when she writes rap-battles, you know they come from a place of experience. The scenes in ‘The Ring’ were some of my favourite parts. Her rhymes are so well-polished and executed.
I gave it 4/5 stars.
MY HUSBAND’S THOUGHTS
I have to say the book did keep me guessing a little in terms of what direction it was going to go and there was some tense moments that had me itching to know what happens next. Without spoiling it, the ending was a little unexpected for me and I’m not unhappy with it, but it could have been better. My only other criticism was that at times it felt quite cliche and done for the sake of being controversial. Like other books by Angie, it was good at addressing some real issues people face in the world today. It offers a lot of insight into the struggles experienced by the poor and those who grow up in situations of hardship. Angie does a great job at highlighting the impacts certain actions can have on the whole community. There was also a small tribute or reference if you will to another of her books The Hate U Give in there as it takes place in the same neighbourhood.
I loved some of the characters in this book and I felt like I could really imagine what they’d be like if they were real. Aunt Pooh in particular was really well written as a larger than life figure. The main character did fly off the handle a little easily at times and sometimes it felt unbelievable. She really let people get to her too easily, but I guess that was part of the story.
THE WRITING STYLE
My favourite aspect of this book was the writing style and how well it incorporated hip-hop culture and references into the story. I’m a big fan of hip-hop and know it’s history quite well so I think maybe I was able to pick up on a few things that the average reader will have missed. It’s definitely one for the hip-hop lovers.
I gave it 4/5 stars.
I hope you enjoyed this post! As you can see, this time around, we had very similar opinions both in terms of positive and negative aspects of the book. The next book we will be reviewing together is Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Stay tuned!
Peace & Love xoxo