On the Come Up – Angie Thomas

on the come up
four stars black
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Pages: 447
Release Date: February 5, 2019

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

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.


The Hate U Give was an incredible debut, so the comparisons between THUG and On the Come Up are inevitable. I’ll try to keep them to a minimum. 

On the Come Up explores a lot of the same themes as THUG, but from a different perspective since the events of this novel take place after the event of THUG. On the Come Up doesn’t explore the themes are thoroughly as THUG since the focus is on Bri, her emotions, her coping mechanism, and her decisions.  

Bri is much harder character to like when compared to Starr. That’s not a criticism, it’s a fact. Bri is toughened in a way Starr never was. Bri is angry and emotional with an in your face attitude. An argument could be made that Bri is a more complicated and complex than Starr. Bri will frustrate you to no end, but her motivations are always clear. 

On the Come Up showcases Thomas’ writing spectacularly. I wish there were more songs throughout the novel since the ones that were included are awesome. Also, I especially loved Bri breaking down specific words and rhymes. It’s a quirk that showcases Bri and her abilities beautifully. 

The only major criticism I have and the reason I rated the novel 4 stars is because of the slow pace. There are stretches of the novel where nothing really happens making it easy to put down and walk away. 

Overall, On the Come Up is a great follow up novel to THUG that cements Thomas as an inspiring writer and not a one hit wonder. 


Have you read On the Come Up? What did you think?

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