Book 6 on My Book List 2021
”You’re gonna face a whole lot of Longs and Tates in your life, baby. More than I’d like. But you never let their actions determine what you do. The moment you do, you’ve given them the power. You hear me?”
So I thought long and hard about what to write about “On the Come Up” and to be completely honest I’m none the wiser. I mean I liked the book and read it pretty fast, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have issues with it. I know, I know. A lot of people will be like: “WHAT?” now and I don’t blame you guys for it. I can only give you my honest opinion though and so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. Let’s hope I’ll be eloquent enough to put this into words.
”This Glock, yeah, I cock it, and aim it,” I write. Wait, no, something should come before that. Aim it. Ain’t it. Frame it… Claim it.”
This said, first things first. There were a lot of things I enjoyed and one of them was Bri’s thought process and how it was portrayed. I definitely found myself in this because for someone who started to write poetry as a young teen this was very relatable. The way she came up with lines and words and then rearranged them in order to give them an impact and meaning was pretty amazing and for me it was obvious that Angie Thomas is a great lyricist as well. You can’t come up (see what I did there ;-P) with lines like these if you don’t have a feeling for the rhythm and flow of poetry.
”Jay really did leave me and Trey at our grandparent’s house. She couldn’t take care of us and her drug habit, too. That’s when I learned that when people die, they sometimes take the living with them.”
Another thing I enjoyed were the little bits of wisdom you could find throughout the entire book and of course the representation of the characters. Just like in “The Hate U Give” there were a lot of different topics that were explored. This time around the theme of police violence was only broached lightly and the focus was more on drug dealing/abuse, the perception of people, their prejudices and how they react to the characters. No matter if it was the incident with Tate and Long that bullied and picked on black kids in Bri’s school or how the Crowns reacted to Bri’s rap lines, all those moments showed that there’s still a lot of work to do.
”I bite the inside of my cheek. I could take these, but the moment I walk out of here with them, I’m fucked. We’re fucked. It means we’ve gotten to the point that we need shoes that someone decided to give away.
I don’t wanna be that person. Yet I think I am that person.”
Also the representation of being poor was very well done, too. The initial bitterness and shame people feel when they are forced to ask for help, yet they know that they have no other choice than to seek aid. If you ask me, it’s the first step in the right direction though. I’ve been working at an NGO for years now and I know this first step is always the hardest to take. To ask for help is tough, because it means you have to acknowledge the fact that you can’t solve your troubles on your own and it takes a lot of courage to admit this to yourself. I really loved Jay’s character because she did everything she could in order to give her kids what they needed. There is no shame in being poor and about 98% of the human population aren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
”So, Ms. Reporter,” I say, “and anybody else who wanna call ‘On the Come Up’ this, that, or whatever the hell else. Do it. Hell, get the song taken down if you want. But you’ll never silence me. I got too goddamn much to say.”
So this all said let’s come to the part of the book I didn’t like and that left some sort of bitter taste in my mouth. The first thing I’ve to mention is that I couldn’t really relate to Bri and her actions. I found myself agreeing with her mother and her brother and even though I know that she was angry and hurt by their situation I still think that the way she reacted only made everything even worse. Of course we can say, she’s just a teen, impulsive and doesn’t know better but quite honestly, to go at the reporter like that, to attack that guy in the studio, if she would have just thought about it for a second she would have known that all those actions would only be for her detriment. Plus even her friends, who are the same age as her, told her that it’s not okay, yet she still insisted that her way was the only way. Bri was stubborn, juvenile and completely incapable to reflect on what she did. If everyone in your family and every single one of your close friends tells you, you’re doing something wrong, well, then you might actually DO something wrong! And what truly bothered me, is that there was no character arc that would have shown she realized her mistakes.
”Promise you gon’ get outta the Garden.”
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
“Promise that you gon’ do whatever you gotta do to make it. Promise like it’s the last thing you’ll ever promise me.”
Quite the contrary, the entire book she fights with her friends because they try to start a movement by using the official channels and work on changing things in a sensible manner, at times she’s downright rude to her mother and to be entirely honest here, she hung out with her aunt Pooh who is a drug dealer (I know she loved her aunt but she was still a drug dealer who obviously did real shady stuff on a regular basis) and even worse she told her aunt about the gang members, knowing exactly how she would react. What did she expect? That aunt Pooh would go to them and ask them nicely? Gangs don’t do things the nice way; it always ends in blood. No one can tell me that Bri wasn’t aware of the consequences this would entail and yet she still did it. I know a lot of people will disagree on this with me but it felt that way while I read the book and this is my opinion. You don’t have to like it or to agree with it, I just want you to respect it.
”If I’m nothing else, I’m them, and they’re me.
That’s more than enough.”
All told this was a solid and good book! It tackled a lot of important topics and Angie Thomas did an excellent job at exploring them. She portrayed poverty, injustice and prejudices and conveyed the message that you should always make use of the power of your voice. Unfortunately for me Bri’s voice wasn’t as relatable and strong as Starr’s and I had quite some trouble to understand her actions. There happened so many things in here yet oddly enough I found myself not as emotionally engaged as I was when I read THUG. I guess we could always say it’s not the book it’s me and maybe that’s right, but maybe it’s not. 3,5 paws and a lot of mixed feelings on top.