REVIEW: ‘ON THE COME UP’ BY ANGIE THOMAS

When Bri loses her temper and storms out of the live radio session , Supreme tells her, “You played that rachet hood rat role. You know how much publicity you ’bout to get from this? “

   ‘On The Come Up’, Angie Thomas’ second novel after the massively hit ‘The Hate You Give’, was published by HarperCollins in 2019. It has been The NewYork Times bestseller, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honoree and has won the Poetry Honor Award.

Brianna or Bri is a sixteen year old, living with her mother, Jay, who has been clear of crack for eight years now, and older brother, Trey, who inspite of being the best student in school and attending college, now works in a meagre pizza shop. They live in a house in the Gardens where they often have to choose between gas, food or electricity.

When Long and Tate, the school security, throws Bri down on the cement floor, just because she is black and have had the audacity to stand up for herself; Jay is infuriated and questions the school authority with a steady head, but tells Bri to lay low.

Instead, out of the desperation to make the ‘Come Up’ happen and so that her family does not have to go to food charities, Bri takes some immature and impulsive decisions.

Only when 10 year old Jojo says, “I told them you be blasting niggas, Bri”, does Bri realise how disastrously her song has been interpreted.

The book clearly shows the power of media – how it exaggerates and projects events; affecting people’s thoughts and fuelling assumptions and prejudices.
Apart from racial discrimination, the issues of homophobia and discrimination on the basis of status have also been well identified.

Though all this sounds dark and serious, ‘On The Come Up’ is full of humour and is extremely relatable; for instance, when Jay, inspite of being in the kitchen, shouts at Bri to keep her bag in her room instead of throwing it into the couch!

The portrayal of a collective society is also mentionable — the cool aunt, Pooh who is almost an older sister to Bri, Curtis who has a precious nickname for Bri, Jay’s relationship with her in-laws, the dynamics of the holy trinity of Bri, Sonny and Malik, and their respective mothers, the absence of the father whose children resemble him in so many ways – of whom Bri doesn’t remember much and Trey does not want to remember much — all these characters intertwined and effecting each other enormously.

Representing hip hop culture is an epic win for both the readers and Thomas. You’re bound to rap along with Bri every single time. Equally brilliant are Bri’s one liners, like when she says ” The cornrows are so tight, I can almost feel my thoughts.”

In conclusion, Brianna Jackson and Angie Thomas, both are the coolest rockstars!

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