On the Come Up
On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.
Bri's father was a rapper who almost made it big, but his life was cut short when he was shot in gang violence. After that, her mother became addicted to drugs and she and her brother went to live with their grandparents. Bri has been back with her mother for a while, but things are getting harder now that her mother has lost her job and bills are piling up. Bri is also starting to be known for her own rap talents.
On top of that, Bri is bussed to a wealthier school who wanted more diversity, but she and other students of color are targeted by the security guards. After a particular incident when they treat her badly, Bri wants things to change, but she is pushed down by the administrators and punished for selling candy bars- when the security guards had thought she was selling drugs. This and some other parts of the story really present racism in an easy to understand way that is really important for young readers.
As she tries to break into the rap scene, there are also a few incidents with sexism that add to the overall messages of social justice. It is all woven into a strong contemporary YA, and just beautifully well done. I highly recommend for everyone looking for a great new read!