ON THE COME UP|| Angie Thomas

ON THE COME UP|| Angie Thomas

Let me just start off by saying I STAN A QUEEN!! Good heavens, I’m not even sure when the last time I was so madly in love with someone I didn’t know was.

Here’s the thing about Angie – (lol I can myself with the first names sometimes), her writing is relatable. Sometimes contemporary is pitched above our heads – but then there are times when true craftsmanship can make today’s ailments matter through literature. I do believe we’ve been blessed with such a talent in Angie. Did I mention how hard I Stan??!!

Okay, okay. Into the book ALSO KNOWN AS my very first EVER ARC! I definitely did a young jig when I got it, because I mean!!

Okay, the book – HONESTLY VUVU.

On The Come Up follows sixteen-year-old Bri who is gifted in word/poetry and performance. She wants nothing more than to be a rapper. Raised by a single mom with baggage, her priorities are not exactly in line. She lost her father when she was extremely young and it took her mother a very long time to recover from the loss. Her brother on the other hand, academically gifted and incredibly considerate has had to make numerous sacrifices to try and fill his father’s shoes as the man of the house. Bri’s grandparents seem to still be mourning the loss of their son and Bri’s Aunt Pooh is on her own mission to live with this loss.

Bri’s father was a renowned rapper in the Hood before he was murdered. An MC of note – so much so that she cannot seem to be able to make a name for herself if it isn’t off the back of his.

Thomas takes us on a journey of a young girl’s dream in an unjust world. The book is reminiscent of The Hate U Give (her debut novel) though the story can stand its own ground.

I have never been to America, but for all my life that first world country has been glamourised in a number of literature that I’ve consumed via TV and in books that it is refreshing to come across someone talking about modern day America in the manner in which Thomas does. It shatters the misconception and almost makes that giant of a country relatable.

Thomas is an incredible story teller – the way in which she uses young people as a lens into the world is truly remarkable.

I love how she brings in so much pop culture into her books. In this one Biggie Smalls, 2Pac, Nas and Star Wars make an appearance.

Thomas’s books (I recognise this is only the second one) bring the issue of representation to the fore. To be honest, I have never truly given it enough thought, not until my Literature classes in university when I was introduced to Toni Morrison (aka the goddess, queen!) and Zakes Mda (what genius, straight out of SA) and I found myself in their stories. Since then I think I’ve gravitated towards books I which my being is represented and gratifies. Most of the times I find this in strong female leads as told by female authors.

Thomas to me has that pull. Also, something about her telling of Black American stories today, right now, real and raw makes it all so melancholy, it is saddening and all together awful. Like with the first book I found myself asking “Does it eventually work out for us (people of colour)? Does it get easier”?

Either way, history reveals time and again that we NEVER buckle under any of it. Queens and kings! We’ve learnt to live and make life in the pit of injustice. May the representation in literature remind us why we wear our crowns.

Okay, I’m back from my tangent. Unlike The Hate U Give, On The Come Up truly began picking up towards the end. Be that as it may this is still a well crafted story.

It’s honestly at tale of existing, of asking the world to make room for you as you are, of truth and innocence, of honesty and vulnerability, of family , friends, society and love. A heavy tale of judgment based on skin colour – within all of that it is also a story about the power and validity of our children’s dreams, about the sacrifices a family makes out of love, about being lost and found.

I’m yet to find anyone who can tell stories with these type of themes with a soft sophistication as Thomas does.


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