on the come up book cover

On the Come Up, YA Novel Review

On the Come Up by author Angie Thomas

On the Come Up is a young adult novel from author Angie Thomas. You may also know her from The Hate U Give. I read THUG the summer before I started this site so I can’t link to a review but I was truly impressed by it and am glad Thomas has impressed me yet again.

On the Come Up features protagonist Bri, a teenage girl with big dreams of becoming a rapper. She wants to lift her family out of the ghetto by becoming the next big thing. And she might actually have the talent to make it happen.

Bri’s raps are fire on the page. You can read them with a perfect beat and it’s an impressive feat of modern poetry for an author to transcend genres like that. Her first rap of the book really grabbed me as a reader and I was ready to root for her to hit the big time.

Bri’s journey takes her farther than someone her age is ready to go. Suddenly she must deal with consequences much larger than getting grounded by her parents. A small lie becomes a big problem and real world penalties are being handed out. How is she going to navigate this storm of fame, racism, class struggles, and gang activity?

The short answer is that she needs help. But as most young adults are likely to do, she doesn’t immediately go to the right help. This book is about growing up too quickly and feeling far more responsibility than you should have to at a young age.

The YA book fully explores what it’s like to be a young, black, lower income, American female. Thomas proudly displays cultural importance balanced with real fears and concerns. Some of the experiences may be familiar to some readers, other readers should feel blessed when they find themselves clueless.

I am no stranger to struggling with money. I found the scene where Bri’s mom takes her to the food bank unnervingly familiar. Thomas understands the shame that accompanies needing help for something so basic. But it’s always better to ask for help when you need it than to try to suffer through without it.

On the Come Up and THUG are important novels for today’s America. I strongly recommend everyone with a teenager buy a copy and read it with them. It’s perfect for book clubs of any age group, start a discussion! (see some example questions below)

On a side note, I kept thinking that On the Come Up had a lot of similarities to Dear Evan Hansen. I would die to see a rap musical version of On the Come Up, someone please make that happen for me, thanks!

5/5 microphones 🎤🎤🎤🎤🎤

Please consider using the following affiliate links to purchase this book, it’s at no extra cost to you and would really help me out, thanks!

Update: The novel has since been adapted into a movie that has a sad 5.6/10 on imdb. The few user reviews available on the site paint the movie as “bland” and “safe.” Apparently, it lost some of the magic during the transfer from page to screen.

Discussion Questions for On the Come Up

  1. How does On the Come Up explore the challenges faced by artists from disadvantaged backgrounds? What obstacles do lower income families face in trying to break into industries like music and performing?
  2. How does Angie Thomas use Bri’s experiences with discrimination and racial profiling to shed light on racism in American society? For instance, how do Bri’s experiences mirror those you have seen in your own life or the news?
  3. In what ways does Bri’s character in On the Come Up challenge traditional gender roles and expectations? What challenges have you or women you know faced when trying to break into fields that are typically dominated by men, and how does Bri’s story inspire and empower women?
  4. How does Bri’s relationship with her family shape her experiences and larger worldview? For example, how have your own family dynamics influenced your personal and professional goals?
  5. How does On the Come Up explore the complexities between art and identity, particularly in relation to hip-hop culture? Have you personally used creative expression to explore and express your own identities. How does Bri’s music help to amplify the voices of marginalized communities?

I love comic books, nonfiction, and everything in between! Come discuss your favorites!

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