Concrete Rose is the highly anticipated prequel novel to the super-famous The Hate U Give!
I have to say, I am always so so curious when authors get to do sequels or prequels…flesh out their world and show us other sides to minor characters. This one is set in the ’90s and is about Starr’s dad as a 17-year-old. And — OH WOW — he was a disaster. But also I ached for Mav and all he went through and just the sheer weight of the burden left on his shoulders. He is still a kid through all of this, and he made so many thoughtless decisions, but the way he unpacks what it is to be a man makes for a story that will hit your heart hard.
I always really love Angie Thomas books. They are thoroughly worth their places of honour as permanent bestsellers. I think THUG and On the Come Up are my favourites, but Concrete Rose takes us on quite a different journey. It hits a lot of the themes Angie Thomas often writes about: life for Black teens, poverty, being in or around gangs, facing a world that is systematically built to crush them, everything from microagressions to vicious racism — and, so importantly, the joy of what life CAN and WILL be. There’s hope in these pages, as well as love and fierce pride over making a life for yourself no matter what the world throws at you.
Also it’s nice reading about a teen dad! I don’t think I’ve read a YA featuring a teen dad before. Mav ends up with near sole custody of his 3-month-old baby, Seven (omggg Seven 😭) and it’s so sad how it all happened, but like Mav is the BEST dad. He gets overwhelmed and has no idea what he’s doing. But he never, never does anything but love his son and want to be the best father. Of course there’s all the drama we know from THUG — Seven isn’t Mav’s girlfriend’s baby. And Mav’s expected to work, go to school, raise his kid, keep his head up in the gang he had to join for protection, and win back Lisa. It’s a lot. His overwhelm and heartbreak is really palpable on page. You LIVE this with him. And he’s just so proud of his kid, no matter what. He’s ashamed of himself at times, but never his baby. It’s really lovely.
The plot mostly is Mav learning to bloom in hard places. (Concrete !! Rose!!) It’s not super fast-paced, but there’s drama and angst and heartbreak and baby-shaped-poop-catastrophes. I whipped through it all in one day and that was nice 😪💛I will admit, Mav is quite sexist and I felt all the girls (Iesha and Lisa included) were barely developed. And NO ONE cut Mav slack?! Like the girls were so so harsh on him but…um 👀 they were not blameless. So that was frustrating.
It’s a story about Black boys learning what it is to be men — and the strength of vulnerability and love and being gentle. Another incredible read from an incredible author.
“Son, one of the biggest lies ever told is that black men don’t feel emotions. Guess it’s easier not to 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.”
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.
Thanks to Walker Books AUS for the ARC!