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On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
Young adult

On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas

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Quick take

A teen rapper will do whatever it takes to make it big in the latest from the author of The Hate U Give.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_400

    400+ pages

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist

    Feminist

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SocialIssues

    Social issues

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Teen

    Teens

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Buzzy

    Buzzy

Synopsis

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.

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Get an early look from the first pages of On the Come Up.
On the Come Up

One

I might have to kill somebody tonight.

It could be somebody I know. It could be a stranger. It could be somebody who’s never battled before. It could be somebody who’s a pro at it. It doesn’t matter how many punch lines they spit or how nice their flow is. I’ll have to kill them.

First, I gotta get the call. To get the call, I gotta get the hell out of Mrs. Murray’s class.

Some multiple-choice questions take up most of my laptop, but the clock though. The clock is everything. According to it, there are ten minutes until four thirty, and according to Aunt Pooh, who knows somebody who knows somebody, DJ Hype calls between four thirty and five thirty. I swear if I miss him, I . . .

Won’t do shit ’cause Mrs. Murray has my phone, and Mrs. Murray’s not one to play with.

I only see the top of her Sisterlocks. The rest of her is hidden behind her Nikki Giovanni book. Occasionally she goes “Mmm” at some line the same way my grandma does during a sermon. Poetry’s Mrs. Murray’s religion.

Everyone else cleared out of Midtown School of the Arts almost an hour ago, except for us juniors whose parents or guardians signed us up for ACT prep. It’s not guaranteed to get you a thirty-six, but Jay said I better get close since she “paid these folks a light bill” for this class. Every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, I drag myself into this classroom and hand my phone over to Mrs. Murray.

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Why I love it

You don’t have to be a fan of hip hop music to be captivated by this book about a 16-year-old girl who dreams of being a rapper. Angie Thomas writes with such heart, perceptiveness, and authenticity that it’s impossible not to be drawn in.

Bri Jackson wants to become a major voice of hip hop—as herself, not the daughter of an underground legend who died when she was a toddler, and definitely not a stereotype. (She’s black and from the Garden, but she’s not a gun-carrying, drug-dealing gang member and has no intention of being typified as such.) When Bri is branded a “hoodlum” at school, she vents her emotions in a song that quickly goes viral—but for all the wrong reasons. Suddenly, Bri finds herself discredited and surrounded by violence.

At its heart, On the Come Up is a gripping story about a girl’s struggle to remain true to herself when life pushes her to compromise, but it’s so much more than that: an impassioned demand for greater understanding of the challenges facing African-American youth today, a love letter to family, and a tribute to the undeniable art and poetry of hip hop.

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Member ratings (4,930)

  • Whitney W.

    Monroe, GA

    What an amazing book! I felt like I knew Bri and her family by the end, and i wish it hadn’t ended. I’ll definitely be reading Angie’s other books! Please read this book. It will be worth your time.

  • Kara B.

    Northborough, MA

    Another fantastic Angie Thomas book! Be sure you’ve read THUG before this, or you’ll some context cues. Really forces you to step back and think about what truly matters to you. What a powerful story!

  • Lacey H.

    Petaluma, CA

    AMAZING. I genuinely could not put this book down. Angie Thomas’ writing just flows—it feels like you’re watching a movie as you read it. I laughed, I cried, & I bought the rest of her books! 10/10

  • Lynette F.

    Hinesville, GA

    This book was just as amazing as Thomas’s debut novel. Her writing is poignant and kicks you right in the feelings. Just know, do not expect THUG. These are different chapters with their own stories.

  • Angelica H.

    Delavan , IL

    I absolutly adored the rap apsect and how it was incoporated into the story! Music plays such a huge role in my life personally and this book just gives music/rap life in a way I haven’t seen before!

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