On the Come Up

In Coretta Scott King and Printz honoree author Angie Thomas's (The Hate You Give) second novel, On the Come Up, high school junior Brianna "Bri" Jackson is an aspiring MC working toward her dream of rap superstardom.

As Bri waits anxiously for the call that will put her in the Ring for her first rap battle, she explains in the first line of the book that she "might have to kill somebody tonight." She gets the call, enters the Ring and does, indeed, annihilate her competition: Milez "with a z," an uninspired challenger whose "Swagerific" bop is hot on the radio. Bri's victory is short-lived, though, when she's assaulted the next day by the security guards at her school. While the video of Bri's performance in the Ring should be going viral, a video of her assault gains traction instead.

On the Come Up takes place almost a year after the police shooting and riots that shook the Garden Heights community in Thomas's THUG. Bri's experiences with the often-overwhelming pressures of being black and poor are intensified by the fact that she is the daughter of a recovering addict and a murdered "underground rap legend." Her narrative is steady and cohesive, even as she is compelled to use her energy to confront institutional violence instead of to build her dream. Thomas's work is multifaceted and unusual; intimate details of life in an underserved and impoverished community are combined with the unjust social and physical brutalities those communities face at the hands of presumed protectors. This book gazes directly at the deeply emotional, moral challenges teens like Bri--teens who dream of hot water and full fridges--face when they are trying to come up. --Breanna J. McDaniel, freelance reviewer

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