GUEST BLOGGER MEGAN YOUNG-JONES RECOMMENDS ON THE COME UP BY ANGIE THOMAS
On The Come Up by Angie Thomas is a book I am excited to have on my bookshelf, and I strongly encourage L.A. teachers to read it. In addition to a compelling story, this novel makes a strong case for rap music and its place in the L.A. classroom. Through her main character, Angie Thomas demonstrates that in order to write good rap, you need command of the English language. She makes it clear that rap is a process that requires skill and practice. She proves it is a genre not to be dismissed.
Written from 16-year old Brianna’s perspective, this is the story of a talented young rapper’s quest to make it big. She is the daughter of a revered rapper and community hero “Lawless” who was tragically killed when Bri was a young girl. Her family struggles to make ends meet and there isn’t a lot of extra cash when the bills are paid. So, Bri runs a side hustle at school where she sells candy bars to make some spending money. Everything changes when she gets thrown to the ground and searched by school security who suspect her of dealing drugs. Bri lives to rap but she also loves Star Wars and Tweety Bird and playing Mario Cart with her two best friends. She doesn’t do or deal drugs. But none of that matters because the incident at school starts a spiral of Bri being profiled and labeled because of the color of her skin and the neighborhood she lives in. Her situation escalates when she vents her frustrations in a rap that gets a lot of airtime. Now she’s worshiped by some and reviled as a dangerous thug by others.
Due to the myriad of themes covered in it’s 447 pages, I found On The Come Up to be a lovely hybrid between a window and a mirror book. Through her characters, Angie Thomas manages to deftly tackle issues surrounding racial profiling, family, poverty, addictions, gang violence, LGBTQ+, and the confusing/wonderful world of teen romance. And overarching within all of these is the theme of identity. Of people thinking or believing you’re something you are not. This is a story of Brianna navigating the murky and messy waters of discovering who she is versus who the world tells her to be.
I cannot wait to pitch it to students, especially those who fell in love with Angie Thomas’ writing after reading The Hate U Give.
Megan Young Jones is a guest blogger for Margin Notes. She teaches Grade 7 Language Arts at George Street Middle School in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Her favorite genres to read are historical fiction and true crime.