On the Come Up
“I might have to kill somebody tonight.” It’s a powerful opening line for multiple award-winning author Angie Thomas’ sophomore novel, On the Come Up, which brings readers back to the neighborhood of Garden Heights, the setting of her debut, The Hate U Give. But what 16-year-old Bri really wants to slay is her competitor in the Ring, a place where wannabe rappers come to compete against each other. She’s beyond confident; after all, she’s the daughter of Lawless, a legendary and influential rapper who was killed in the midst of gang violence.
Fueled with a desire to be like her father, Bri goes big with her verse—maybe too big. When she wins the rap battle and a buzzworthy video of her performance goes viral, she discovers that her war has just begun. Bri’s raw and controversial lyrics put her in danger when they incite misunderstanding and anger, and her classmates label her as “hood.” Add to that an eviction notice, a drug-dealing aunt and an out-of-work mom who’s a recovering addict, and it looks like Bri has bitten off more than she can chew on her way to the top.
Can Bri remain true to herself while rapping behind a tough persona? And is free speech really free—especially for young black people? Bri discovers that this fighting-for-your-life thing gets real in more ways than one.
Thomas knocked it out of the park with The Hate U Give—amassing scores of literary awards and a blockbuster movie deal. In the introduction to her new book, she calls that experience “surreal.” But Thomas should prepare for even more attention and accolades, because On the Come Up is another raw and powerful look at the challenges of being young and black in America.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.