Through On The Come Up, Angie Thomas proves she is FAR from a one-hit-wonder. This remarkable story is told through the protagonist Bri Jackson, an aspiring rapper who has the talent to be one of the greats but whose passion is often mislabeled as “aggression” by the white authority figures in her life. It seems like every move she makes; someone is there to knock her down. At home, things are not much better, as the oppressive systems in place seem to ensure that Bri’s mother can’t fully get back on her feet financially after recovering from drug use. Bri wants to make it big as a rapper because it’s her dream, but she is fueled even more by the desire to lift her family out of poverty, forcing her to choose between what is authentic and what will make money. Through this and other sub-plots in the book, Thomas brilliantly demonstrates the ways in which poverty stands as indivisible from other aspects of a person’s life. It dictates choices (sometimes to leave college or start selling drugs), weighs on the brain, fills the stomach with uncooked food, and follows Bri around as closely as possible, down to the soles of her worn-down fake Timberlands. She bears the weight of her family’s financial circumstances alongside trying to negotiate racial discrimination at her school, budding romances, and taking the freakin’ ACT. Despite and because of it all, Bri is lyrical, brilliant, confident, and exactly the kind of role model we need in American literature today.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, (List Price: $18.99, Balzer + Bray, 9780062498564, February 2019)
Reviewed by Olivia Gacka, Novel in Memphis, Tennessee