I didn’t know what I was expecting when I picked this up, but I’m speechless upon finishing it. Go read one of the best YA novels of 2021!
Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas
My Rating: 4.5 / 5 Stars
Series: The Hate U Give #0
Genre: contemporary, YA
TW: death of a loved one, death, drug use, gun violence, teen pregnancy, grief
International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.
If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.
Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.
Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.
Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.
When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.
Tough situations don’t last. Tough people do.Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
In celebration of YA week on Goodreads, I fervently urge all of you to go out and read one of the best YA books of 2021. I loved The Hate U Give and went into Concrete Rose not knowing anything about the plot or characters. And Angie Thomas did not disappoint. She created a fantastic set of characters and brought them to life in Garden Heights. There were moments when I laughed and moments when I cried. I don’t think I am the target audience for this story, but I still felt so inspired by the steps that Maverick took despite all of the barriers that stood in his way.
Maverick is a complex main character, and it is amazing to see his development throughout the book. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure I liked him. But as the story progressed, we get to see so many layers of his life and hardships. What I really enjoyed about Thomas’s writing was that she made Maverick authentic. And at each pivotal point, he might not always make the right decision, but he lives with the consequences and tries to do better. And that message really stuck with me – we can’t do everything; we certainly can’t do everything right, but we can learn and do better. Maverick and I come from very different backgrounds, but I feel like I learned a lot about myself by just following his story.
Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that Black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier to not see us as human when you think we’re heartless. Fact of the matter is, we feel things. Hurt, pain, sadness, all of it. We got a right to show them feelings as much as anybody else.Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas
I’m giving Angie Thomas a standing ovation for putting these words on paper. Maverick’s humanity and inner conflict were central to driving the plot. *minor spoilers ahead* His life changed when his cousin died. His life changed when he became a father. But throughout all of these major changes, we are constantly reminded that Maverick is still a teenager with feelings and emotions. He wants his ex-girlfriend back. He wants to take Friday night off to hang out with his friends. He doesn’t know how to break the bad news to his parents. *minor spoilers end* The magic of Thomas’s writing was that she made Maverick a very relatable character, even though his lived experiences are completely different from mine. I can’t sympathize with him on everything, but I also went through the same rebellious and irresponsible teenage phase.
Maverick has a great relationship with his family, and this book really emphasized the importance of an older black male acting as a model for black boys. Even though his mom might not approve of all his actions, she stuck by his decisions and tried to steer him on the right path. One of my favorite side characters is Mr. Wyatt, Maverick’s employer, who provided him an alternative outlook in life. However estranged, Maverick also tried to maintain a good relationship with his dad and still seek for his approval.
Overall, I can’t recommend this book enough. It provided me with new societal insights and many funny and emotional scenes. As a bonus pro tip, I would highly recommend listening to this as an audiobook to maximize enjoyment!
If you’ve read this, let me know what you think!