By Teresa Richards
I’ve read a lot of great books this year, so it’s hard to pick just one. Speak Easy Speak Love by McKelle George, Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton, and The Great Unknowable End by Kathryn Ormsbee are among my 2019 favorites.
But I think the one that stuck with me the most was On The Come Up by Angie Thomas. I mean, it’s Angie Thomas, so I knew this book was going to be great. But I loved The Hate U Give so much that I wasn’t sure this one would be able to touch it. I was very wrong. On The Come Up stands on its own and impressed me so much with its gritty honesty.
I’m a musician, and my music tastes are pretty broad. While alternative rock is the music of my heart, I also enjoy classical, country, jazz, and pop (as long as it’s not overplayed). But rap has been a music style I’ve never quite been able to get behind. Growing up, my brother loved rap—he could drop a lyric with the best of them, thanks mostly to MC Hammer. But rap was never a style I understood. I was in it for the music, not the lyrics, and I didn’t understand how a song with no actual singing could be considered music.
But reading On The Come Up opened my eyes to the artistry and intricacy involved in rapping. The main character, Bri, is a teen rapper from the hood who is trying to fill her father’s shoes. After posting a controversial rap song, she becomes an internet sensation and has to navigate both fame and fallout, all while finding her true voice. Reading about Bri’s process of writing lyrics and how she channels real life into those lyrics is fascinating. The talent it takes to put what you’re feeling into words that are meaningful, poetic, and concise, especially on the fly, is astounding to me.
I also love the way that Bri navigates her way through difficult situations with her lyrics. Her family and friend relationships are authentic and sometimes heartbreaking. I love that there is a little romantic subplot, but it doesn’t overshadow the main themes of the novel. Bri is just a normal teenager, doing the best she can with the hand she’s been dealt, like anybody else. She makes mistakes and has to learn from them. She has some major wins and some major losses. Her world is opened up in a way that feels so real—like you’re her best friend, not some outsider looking in.
On The Come Up is a story that stayed with me long after I finished the last page. To me, that’s the mark of a truly remarkable book. Oh, also, this is a page turner. If you haven’t read it yet, clear your weekend and get ready to be transported. Seriously. Shout out to Angie Thomas for a life-changing novel.
And, finally, happy NaNoWriMo! May the words flow and the distractions melt away.
Teresa Richards writes speculative and contemporary YA fiction, but loves anything that can be given a unique twist. Teresa’s first novel, EMERALD BOUND (2015, Evernight Teen), was an Editor’s Pick, and Book of the Month at Long and Short Reviews (LASR). The sequel, TOPAZ REIGN (2017, Evernight Teen), received a starred Best Book distinction from LASR, in addition to being Book of the Month. Teresa’s third book, THE WINDFALL APP (2018, Evernight Teen), received a five-star Top Pick distinction from Night Owl Reviews. Her novella, You, Me, and Comic Con, was released as part of a YA romance collection by Teenacity Books in 2017.