Let me tell you how I’m not happy about breaking my TBR to fit this book in, but I will say that I’m happy I read it. I loved Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, and I knew I would love On the Come Up.
If you’re looking to find The Hate U Give Part 2, you’re looking in the wrong place. Different family, but same world. Bri is a young teenager looking to make a name for herself as a rapper. Her father was a rapper because he was murdered by a rival gang. Her mother was devastated by his death and turned to drugs for a little while. Her family isn’t doing well to keep the lights on. As you can tell, there’s a lot of stuff happening in Bri’s life and she feels the need to help in some way. So she tries to make her rapping dreams come true.
First off, let me talk about Angie Thomas’s writing style. This book reads like a teenager wrote it. Not to say that it’s full of slang that you can’t tell what’s going on, but it’s enough to make it relatable to many young people today. On top of that, it really brings the story together. The neighborhood Bri is from, the people in her life, these tiny mannerisms like they way they talk or carry themselves really brings these characters to life. I can picture what was going on very well and I could feel how Bri felt in all of her circumstances.
Which made it easy for me to see the slight “micro aggressions” Bri deals with everyday. Bri lives in a world where she’s constantly underestimated. The first big incident in this book is watching Bri get thrown to the ground with a knee in her back. The security team at her school stops her “randomly” and she refused.
I loved her mom. Jay sacrificed a lot so that Bri and her brother, Trey, had a good education and didn’t have to worry about money. She was also eight years sober from drug addiction, which says a lot about her mindset and how she wants to be there for her kids. She really was an amazing person and I wish she knew it. You can sense Bri gets a little tired by her mom, but she never says it and she never loses her patience. I think that also says a lot about her given that she flies off the handle quickly and gets angry.
When Bri records her first rap song, I was so happy for her. I don’t know much about rap music, but I can imagine it being a great song with lyrics that really speak to the world Bri lives. The song alone is a huge metaphor for the rest of the book. I kept thinking to myself about how the world expects Bri to be this hardened criminal when she wasn’t and putting herself in danger to perpetuate that persona to the world. It’s so sad.
I felt like the big theme of this novel was prejudice. There’s prejudice towards rap music. There’s prejudice towards African Americans living in a certain area. There’s prejudice about gangs and gang affiliation. I feel like Angie Thomas covered a lot of ground in this book and she did it in a way that really made sense.
I can relate a lot to the prejudice Bri faces. While I don’t consider my life and hers a reflection of each other, I face prejudice a lot. People asking me how I learned how to speak English so well. People asking me when I moved to America. No one wants to believe that I grew up here, that I learned English the same way they learned English. They want to believe that I’m an immigrant and learned English by watching American TV.
The funny part about the prejudices in this book is that they were coming from everyone. Not only did certain white characters think Bri was a “hoodlum” or “ratchet,” but certain Black characters wanted her to feed into that rumor for the sake of making money.
Playing with gangs and affiliating yourself with them are no joke, but it feels like it’s the persona people want to see from Bri. Because she’s a rapper from a father who quasi-associated with some neighborhood gangs, the only logical solution for her is to do the same? From what we’ve learned about Bri, it doesn’t make sense. She’s a good kid trying to make her dream come true and faced with the gangster rapper persona. It’s disheartening and Bri saw right through that.
And throughout the novel, you get the sense that Bri is just your average teenager. She has a crush on a guy. She’s studying for the ACT. She loves Star Wars, Black Panther, and eating junk food with her friends. She doesn’t have a stable home life and she wants to help change that, but her mom wants her to have a good education and graduate from high school.
The ending was definitely a happy one for everyone and I’m glad of it. It all comes together pretty seamlessly and makes sense with the story. I would have hated if somehow Bri sold herself out for some money or got hurt or in trouble. I would have hated if she got everything she wanted within a short period of time. I loved that it ended the way it did. You can’t stop her on the come up, nope nope!