Book Review: “Concrete Rose” by Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas has easily become one of my go-to authors. The Hate U Give is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and On The Come Up was just as incredible (you can find my review of the latter HERE). In my opinion, Thomas’ young adult novels are exactly what a young adult novel should be. They tackle real issues, humanize people and situations that are often misrepresented in the media, and they show us flawed characters who are doing the best that they can (something we can’t help but connect with as we follow them on their journeys). I’ve been so excited to read this prequel to The Hate U Give ever since I heard about it (shout-out to my parents for pre-ordering it for me for Christmas!). I read it as soon as I could, and it did not disappoint.

Spoiler-Free Review: “Concrete Rose” is a YA novel that follows Maverick Carter (Starr’s father in The Hate U Give) as he becomes a teenage father. We get to see Maverick through many ups and downs; some out of his control and some due to his own poor choices. What I love most about this book is that our protagonist is not perfect, not even close! However, no matter how many mistakes he makes, his good heart shines through. He’s doing the best that he can to be a good son, father, boyfriend, and friend. With so many outside pressures and struggles, he doesn’t always succeed, but his heart is always in the right place. My favorite thing about Angie Thomas’ books is how she humanizes situations that are so often dehumanized in the media, and this book is no exception. How different would the world be if people would truly see each other, rather than just judging each other by our lowest moments? Concrete Rose is a phenomenally written book with a unique and endearing protagonist at its heart. It’s a book that will stay with me for a long time.

Below you will find a more thorough review containing my thoughts about the book. If you’re wanting to avoid any spoilers, you are welcome to jump to the TL;DR summary at the bottom of the page if you’d prefer!

“Concrete Rose” by Angie Thomas
Image result for concrete rose
  • Year of Publication: 2021
  • Genre: YA Fiction
  • Summary:

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.

TRIGGER WARNING: Gang violence. Murder. Teen pregnancy. Teen drug use. Prison visit.

Format: Hardcover

Themes: Being a man means doing what’s right and being there for your family. Be loyal to those who lift you up. Get rid of the things and people who don’t help you grow. Revenge can’t undo the past. We have a responsibility to ourselves to do what we can to reach our full potential.

Character Development: INCREDIBLE. Even with all of his flaws, you can’t help but fall in love with Maverick. He cares so much about his family and his friends, and he never stops trying to do what’s right (even if he’s not always sure what that is). All of the characters were well-developed, and they all contributed meaningfully to the story and to Maverick’s development.

Plot/Pacing: Perfect! It’s difficult to put down, and I never felt bored at any time. Maverick has so many different things going on, but everything was connected so well that it never felt overwhelming.

Writing Style: This was actually the first book I physically read by Angie Thomas, the others I listened to as audiobooks. The experience was definitely different! The story is written in the speech style of Maverick. At first I was worried this would be difficult, but after a couple chapters my brain was totally used to the style and it didn’t even phase me anymore. I love that it was written in the way that Maverick talks; it really felt like we were in his head and experiencing the plot with him.

“Bingeability”: High. It’s hard to put down! I didn’t want to stop reading, but I also wanted to slow down and savor it! In the end, I ended up reading it pretty quickly because I just couldn’t resist. I was worried this wouldn’t be the case since it’s a prequel and I kind of know how things turn out, but it was structured so well that this wasn’t an issue at all.

Emotional Investment: High. You seriously can’t help but fall in love with Maverick. I was so invested in his story and cared so deeply about his journey and making sure things turned out okay for him.

Windows and Mirrors: Black boyhood/manhood. Incarcerated/absent father. Single mother. Gang life/activity. Drug dealing. Gang violence. Teen parenthood/pregnancy. Bisexuality.

Overall Thoughts: I guess the only thing I can really think of to add is that, occasionally, some of the messages and themes were a little heavy-handed and were explained a little too explicitly. There was some pretty clear messaging about women’s bodily autonomy (i.e. Maverick being pro-choice and supportive of his baby mama’s options for the pregnancy) and the purposes/benefits of sex education (i.e. why Maverick’s mom kept condoms in the house and was open about it with him). However, as an adult I may not need to have these things spelled out for me, but it’s important to consider the audience this was written for: young people! As a young person, I think it would be really powerful to hear those messages, especially since teens may not be hearing these things at school or at home. They’re important lessons to learn, and I’m glad that there are books out there like this one that are exposing people to them at a young age. Overall, this book is incredible and I absolutely loved it.

Recommendation: Yes, I absolutely recommend this book. This book is amazing, and I recommend it for teens and adults alike. For parents of teens (or pre-teens who are at an advanced reading level), this would be a great one to read and discuss together as you go.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

TL;DR:
Year of Publication: 2021
Genre: YA Fiction
Summary: 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.
TW: Gang violence. Murder. Teen pregnancy. Teen drug use. Prison visit.
Themes: Manhood. Loyalty. Growth. Revenge. Responsibility.
Character Development: Incredible.
Plot/Pacing:
Perfect.
“Bingeability”:
High.
Emotional Investment:
High.
Windows and Mirrors:
Black boyhood/manhood. Incarcerated/absent father. Single mother. Gang life/activity. Drug dealing. Gang violence. Teen parenthood/pregnancy. Bisexuality.
Overall Thoughts:
A little heavy-handed with some of the themes, but appropriate for target audience. Absolutely loved the story.
Recommendation: Yes
Rating:
5 out of 5 stars

Thank you for reading my review! Leave a comment letting me know if you’ve read this one or have any questions about it, and keep an eye out for my next review!

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