On the Come Up follows the story of sixteen year old Brianna Jackson, desperate to achieve her dream of becoming a world-famous rapper and save her family from the poverty they risk falling into. But with a father whose legacy defines her identity, the path to success is not an easy one for Bri.
I had super high expectations for this book. I read The Hate U Give, also by Angie Thomas, earlier this year and it is still currently my favourite book of the year. Unfortunately, On the Come Up just didn’t have that same spark of magic for me, although that’s not to say it wasn’t a good book and it still earned a respectable four stars from me on Goodreads.
As is often the case in fictional books written by inclusive authors, there is much to learn about their experiences of the world. The explorations of microaggressions and how white privilege works was an overarching theme that I think delivers a long-lasting message. Bri was also referred to as aggressive simply for speaking her truth several times throughout the book, highlighting stereotypes and how damaging they can be.
Though extremely ballsy (something which I really respected in her character), my main qualm with the book was that I found Bri massively frustrating a lot of the time. I liked that she knew her own mind, but I found myself wishing she’d take advice from those who cared about her. Several of her decisions put her friends and family in very real danger, and she didn’t seem to even consider this until after the fact when it was too late to do anything about it. This happened several times over and I found it more and more frustrating every time.
That being said, there was a lot that I loved about Bri and I enjoyed her most in her quiet moments of self-reflection. This is essentially a book about self discovery and deciding what really matters in life, and I found that by the end she had finally learnt from her mistakes and allowed a little more kindness and joy into her world.
There was a lot to enjoy about this book. As always, Angie Thomas’ writing flowed brilliantly and it was a super quick read. I loved all the hip-hop references, the honesty with which drug addiction and gang-violence was depicted, the changing dynamics of Bri’s relationships with those around her. I can’t see myself rereading this one, but I’m glad I read it once and definitely think there is a lot to be gained from it.
Trigger warnings: gang violence, murder, racism, addiction, homelessness, poverty